Innumerable as the Starrs of Night,
Or Starrs of Morning,
Dew-drops, which the Sun
on every leaf and every flouer
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all
ye need to know.
E = M
Energy is eternal delight.
Impearls: In praise of the C-word II - Dictionary Cuntroversies
Item page — this may be a chapter or subsection of a larger work. Click on link to access entire piece.
In praise of the C-word II – Dictionary Cuntroversies
This is about the C-word! You have been warned.
With regard to Impearls' earlier article on the subject of the C-word, Lynn Sislo at Reflections in d minor posted a link to it. Dean Esmay at Dean's World also linked back to the piece (forming a perfect ring, or perhaps properly it would be a spiral through Blogosphere space-time!). Some of the comments to Esmay's piece are hilarious. I have to disagree gently, however, with one of Rosemary's admonitions. As was mentioned in Impearls' earlier article, there is, I believe, a place for men as well as women to judiciously use the C-word — in my view, however, primarily as lovers speaking erotically to their mates (or as a writer writing about same), not as a term of opprobrium labeling people as individuals, by gender or class.
Dean Esmay goes on to dispute the C-word's etymology that Impearls' earlier piece alluded to, saying: “I'm pretty sure its ultimate roots are from the Latin word cunnus, although etymologists are doubtful about that from what I understand.”
Dean's suggestion of the Latin word cunnus (meaning a woman's sexual genitalia, as well as prostitute1) as the origin for the English word cunt is a fascinating one. After looking into the issue, however, I must reluctantly conclude it appears not to be backed up by linguistic scholarship. Dean doesn't explain why he feels so strongly that this is the case, but lacking academic support, the idea, interesting though it seems, ends up in pretty much the same locale as those other urban legends (such as the one whereby the popular “F-word” is supposed to be an acronym) — i.e., wrong! I should note, however, in this context that, according to Webster's Third New International Dictionary2, the word cunnus (plural cunni), meaning female external genitalia, is also an English word — which certainly complicates the situation with regard to the similar C-word and its associated variants.
Here's how several different English-language dictionaries describe the C-word's etymology:
All which is fully consistent with a Germanic, not Romance, origin for the C-word in English.
While here, let's consider usages over time as shown in the OED, which are fascinating.
One ought also consider that close variant on the C-word, “Quaint”: 7
Then there's the diminutive variant of the C-word, “Cunny.” As the OED puts it: 8
I'm afraid it gets even more complicated than that. As the above quote notes, one must also see the (Modern) English word Cony, meaning rabbit — memorably heard most recently in the phrase “a brace of conies” in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. In earlier times, “cony” was often spelt “conny,” sometimes even “cunny,” and pronounced identically with the above word “cunny” — which is to say, so as to rhyme with honey and money. Given this, associations between “connies” and “cunnies” were inevitable, just as (with less linguistic cause) the term “pussy” is sometimes applied today for the female genitalia. As a result, according to the OED, certain meanings of cony have aligned with those of the C-word: 9
Conies (rabbits) are mentioned in the Bible, so one can imagine the tittering in church centuries ago when those scriptural passages were recited — the result being that cony began to be pronounced (at first only in church) using the long-o vowel sound.
Thus, the pronunciation seen today.
1 Cassell's Latin Dictionary (Latin-English and English-Latin), revised by J. R. V. Marchant (Scholar of Wadham College, Oxford) and Joseph F. Charles (Assistant Master at the City of London School), Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York and London; p. 146.
3 The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, edited by William Morris, 1969, American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., and Houghton Mifflin Company, New York; pp. 322, 1524. See also the online American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
6 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume III: Supplement, 1987, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, New York (Library of Congress catalog no. PE1625.C58 1987 423 87-1592, ISBN 0-19-861211-7 (v.3)); pp. 176-177. See also OED Online (subscription only).
7 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume II: P-Z, 1971, Oxford University Press, New York (Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 76-188038); p. 2382. See also OED Online (subscription only).
8 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume III: Supplement, 1987, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, New York (Library of Congress catalog no. PE1625.C58 1987 423 87-1592, ISBN 0-19-861211-7 (v.3)); p. 176. See also OED Online (subscription only).
9 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume I: A-O, 1971, Oxford University Press, New York (Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 76-188038); p. 549. See also OED Online (subscription only).
2002-11-03 2002-11-10 2002-11-17 2002-11-24 2002-12-01 2002-12-08 2002-12-15 2002-12-22 2002-12-29 2003-01-05 2003-01-12 2003-01-19 2003-01-26 2003-02-02 2003-02-16 2003-04-20 2003-04-27 2003-05-04 2003-05-11 2003-06-01 2003-06-15 2003-06-22 2003-06-29 2003-07-13 2003-07-20 2003-08-03 2003-08-10 2003-08-24 2003-08-31 2003-09-07 2003-09-28 2003-10-05 2003-10-26 2003-11-02 2003-11-16 2003-11-23 2003-11-30 2003-12-07 2003-12-14 2003-12-21 2003-12-28 2004-01-04 2004-01-11 2004-01-25 2004-02-01 2004-02-08 2004-02-29 2004-03-07 2004-03-14 2004-03-21 2004-03-28 2004-04-04 2004-04-11 2004-04-18 2004-04-25 2004-05-02 2004-05-16 2004-05-23 2004-05-30 2004-06-06 2004-06-13 2004-06-20 2004-07-11 2004-07-18 2004-07-25 2004-08-22 2004-09-05 2004-10-10 2005-06-12 2005-06-19 2005-06-26 2005-07-03 2005-07-10 2005-07-24 2005-08-07 2005-08-21 2005-08-28 2005-09-04 2005-09-11 2005-09-18 2005-10-02 2005-10-09 2005-10-16 2005-10-30 2005-11-06 2005-11-27 2006-04-02 2006-04-09 2006-07-02 2006-07-23 2006-07-30 2007-01-21 2007-02-04 2007-04-22 2007-05-13 2007-06-17 2007-09-09 2007-09-16 2007-09-23 2007-10-07 2007-10-21 2007-11-04 2009-06-28 2009-07-19 2009-08-23 2009-09-06 2009-09-20 2009-12-13 2011-03-27 2012-01-01 2012-02-05 2012-02-12