Well, ain’t that quaint! A Recount of My Life with the C-word

3 Oct

Michelle from The Green Study, has published a very witty and interesting post 50 Shade of Blue: The Use of Profanity at The Green Study. This made me laugh and got me thinking about my own profanities.

I love to swear.

There is something so forceful and punchy about an expletive. It hits the spot where reams and reams of endless adjectives would fail. It still feels a bit naughty and yet empowering. Particularly the C-word.

C U N T.

4 little letters: 3 consonants; 1 vowel. Awkward acronyms (Cambridge University National Trust Society). Humourous homophonic insults “See YOU next Tuesday.” A good time had by all.

In fact, should you wish to delve further into the linguistic world of cunt you will find numerous explorations of its etymology here, here and here. However, it is my personal history with cunt that I feel compelled to share.

The Cat’s Timeline of Cunt

1996: Playing outside with step-brothers. Neighbours having domestic. “You stupid faacking cunt” rings around the cul de sac. What can I say? It was a classy area. Come visit sometime. Wee 10 year old me goes inside to enquire from my step-mother the meaning of this noun.

“Oh, well I can’t tell you the meaning of that word sweetheart, your mother wouldn’t like it.” What? 

“Okaaay…”

“Of course, look it up the dictionary if you really want to know.”

So cunt = mega-bad-insulting word used by scary drug addict neighbour, too rude to even be uttered. Wow. It must mean something horrendous, something indescribable… oh it means fanny.  WTF? Why is that so bad? I’m not even entirely sure where it is, it’s where I pee from right? (1997 was going to be a very eventful year in that department – OMG there are two holes?!)

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JT and I had very different concerns back in ’96.

10 Long Years of Barely Daring To Utter The Word Until…

2005: Renaissance Literature lecture at university. Dr Sexy but Monotone Voice adds a final, “and of course, cunt originates from quaint, which we witness earlier in Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale.”

Quaint? My vagina? The source of power and shame that I had been wrestling with for the past 8 years, that glory box of pain, desire, power is quaint?! I am at UNIVERSITY, I am a WOMAN and I am HAVING SEX. Don’t call MY vagina quaint! Quaint is pathetic. Quaint is fragile and somewhat cutesy. I have the power to give life, sweet jesus waiting every month to check I wasn’t going to give life was enough of a stress in itself.

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Ooh Chaucer, you saucy minx.

2007: Modern Literature seminar. Sweating away after pulling a fag and coffee fuelled all-nighter, just to finish this week’s primary text: Lady Chatterley’s Lover. All to discuss the following seminal moments:

`Th’art good cunt, though, aren’t ter? Best bit o’ cunt left on earth. When ter likes! When tha’rt willin’!’

`What is cunt?’ she said.

`An’ doesn’t ter know? Cunt! It’s thee down theer; an’ what I get when I’m i’side thee, and what tha gets when I’m i’side thee; it’s a` as it is, all on’t.’

`All on’t,’ she teased. `Cunt! It’s like fuck then.’

`Nay nay! Fuck’s only what you do. animals fuck. But cunt’s a lot more than that. It’s thee, dost see: an’ tha’rt a lot besides an animal, aren’t ter? – even ter fuck? Cunt! Eh, that’s the beauty o’ thee, lass!’

We ruminated over cunt for an hour. A room of thirteen 21 year old females with one 60-something year old male. I was uncomfortable. Maybe it should have been empowering. But he had chosen the excerpt and I still wasn’t quite comfortable with it.

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Hard to believe in the advent of 50 Shades that this was once a banned book.

2012: Reading The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time with a class of thirteen year olds. The c-word crops up a number of times and even in these moments of whole class reading aloud, they do not seem as shaken as I was once. And I am glad. I hope that this is a reflection of a lack of shame on their part and a willingness to see language for what it really is – ever evolving signs, sounds and symbols without the power to conjure up wickedness or leave you to face a terrible wrath, as I once feared.

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If you haven’t read Mark Haddon’s insightful exploration of Asperger’s then do. It’s engaging, moving and humourous.

2013: Still having an inner debate about the issues of profanities, wondering whether to try and abstain for good and discovering this on Pinterest:

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Indeed.

What is your personal history of profanity? 

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3 Responses to “Well, ain’t that quaint! A Recount of My Life with the C-word”

  1. Michelle at The Green Study October 4, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    That’s a word that never held appeal to me – much like “bitch”. I’ve heard those words only in the context of degradation of a woman and I don’t think I can re-purpose them without those personal associations. Your post was interesting – it’s really about changing context and how capable one is of disassociating words with past context in order to give new meaning.
    PS – Thanks for the mention!

    • thecatsdaydream October 4, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Thank you – as you can probably tell, I am just getting started with blogging and I found your post on Freshly Squeezed, which I gather is a controversial honour to have bestowed upon you! I’m glad I found it though. As an English teacher, I find language and the power of language fascinating, particularly the way students and young people respond to different language, be it authoritarian, slang or profane. I also consider myself open and disassociated as you say, but reflecting now, although I love to say ‘fuck’ as an exclamation of annoyance, I absolutely despise it’s use as a synonym for sex. Maybe I’m just a romantic!

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