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Impearls: In praise of the C-word - Foreword

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Earthdate 2004-02-13

In praise of the C-word – Foreword

Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath, from The Canterbury Tales, as depicted on the Ellesmere Manuscript (Harvard University) There's been an altercation — a disturbance — in the fabric of the Blogosphere, whose ripplies have bounced round the tub a few times, and in further reflecting off Impearls, transformed into the form herein, “In praise of the C-Word!” featuring Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath.

I hesitate to even mention the original problem, so divergent is it from the path we're taking here, but in its first context one party took severe exception (to the extent of publicly and dramatically cutting off contact with another, a woman) over her one-time use, not directed at any specific individual, of the technical term feminazi cunt.

I shan't address the issue raised, other than express my inclination to say, “Girls, girls!” (oops, not politically correct, substitute) “Ladies, ladies!  Can't you play nicely?” 

I'll also not comment as to applicability of the former portion of this remarkable turn of phrase — leaving that to the girls ladies — but (now, after having offended nearly everyone) I will jump in to debate the etymological aptness of the use, at least in some contexts (appropriately in time for Valentine's Day!), of the fine old English language word “cunt” (sometimes euphemized, in modern polite company, as the c-word).  How's that for a variant consequence of the original quaver in the fabric of the Blogosphere?

The c-word, it turns out (which I'll use to spare further the sensitive eared), is of venerable ancestry, dating back well into the Middle Ages, and ultimately deriving probably from an old Germanic root meaning, among other things, “a hollow space or place, an enclosing object….”  Modern English words as various as cottage, codpiece, cobweb, coop, cog, cock, chicken, cudgel, kobold, and even the keel of a boat all apparently derive from this same old root.  1

Beyond illustrating this etymological history, however, I'll let Geoffrey Chaucer's character in The Canterbury Tales “The Wife of Bath” continue for me, in her own eloquent, inimitable fashion.  Happy Valentine's Day!
 
 

UPDATE:  2004-02-24 13:40 UT:  Discussion continues after the quotation.  Jump to Afterword.

UPDATE:  2004-03-11 16:40 UT:  A follow-up article In Praise of the C-word II has been posted.



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