Bring Back the “C” Word

Bring Back the “C” Word

Long ago in a not faraway land there was a kid who had the idea that it was stupid to give symbols, including words, too much power. “It’s just a word,” she’d heard as a child after she’d been teased and bullied by kids at school. “Words can’t hurt you.” She believed it, too.

Apparently some words COULD hurt because years later, when  the girl brought some home, mom got incredibly upset, set the girl down for a “talk” and said “Never say that word around me!” The word, of course, was “fuck.” And for saying that word in school? A kid could be put on suspension.

The girl wasn’t stupid. She understood that people gave words this power. She thought it was like witchcraft or voo-doo, spells. She also thought it was stupid.

Then she learned about the Norman Conquest and how speaking English became a crime. Beautiful and holy “Anglish” Germanic words were replaced by Latinate synonyms which were more “polite” and “proper.” Even though the Normans went home sooner or later, the “spell” remained.

There were attempts made to rehabilitate the old words. One famous attempt was that of D. H. Lawrence in his novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover which ended up banned and condemned because of, mostly because of, its display of the old words.

'Dunna ax me nowt now,' he said. 'Let me be. I like thee. I luv thee
when tha lies theer. A woman's a lovely thing when 'er's deep ter fuck,
and cunt's good. Ah luv thee, thy legs, an' th' shape on thee, an' th'
womanness on thee. Ah luv th' womanness on thee. Ah luv thee wi' my balls
an' wi' my heart. But dunna ax me nowt. Dunna ma'e me say nowt. Let me
stop as I am while I can. Tha can ax me iverything after. Now let me
be, let me be.' (D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

She encountered the phenomenon, later, when she looked into joining an archeological trip to Petra. The rules for behavior clearly stated, more than one, but mentioned more than once was this: “Eschew the use of Anglo-Saxon words while working on the project.” “Anglo-Saxon” was a euphemism for “fuck” and “cunt” and “shit” and all the great monosyllabic thundering words with their stark power and clarity. (And truly; what word sounds nastier than “eschew“?)

And really, she wondered, why does the word “vagina” sound “better” than the word “cunt”? Vagina sounds like a disease. “I don’t know how to tell you this, ma’am, but the thing is, I’ve checked your condition thoroughly and you have vagina.”

“Oh, no, doctor, you don’t mean it!”

“I’m sorry.”

“Is it fatal?”

I don’t even think the doctor could be a judge of that.

There was a time, long, long ago, when there was no taboo over the words cunt and fuck. They had no power. They were everyday words used to discuss, well, discuss what they are. To me, they are emblematic of the innumerable casualties of prissy hypocrisy that slows down the progress of truth and steals energy from language. And while I don’t like D. H. Lawrence’ book that much (any more; time was I did), he makes the point here.

'Tha'rt real, tha art! Tha'art real, even a bit of a bitch. Here tha
shits an' here tha pisses: an' I lay my hand on 'em both an' like thee
for it. I like thee for it. Tha's got a proper, woman's arse, proud of
itself. It's none ashamed of itself this isna.'(D. H. Lawrence,Lady
Chatterley's Lover)

There is no reason these words are “sensational.” There is no good reason not to use them in normal conversation, but we don’t. When I consider how pervasive the “F” word has become in film and music, I wonder that it still shocks anyone, but it does. And the “C” word? In the US, it’s used as the ultimate obscenity, the worst thing a person can be. Wow.


If you think about that, you might think, “Wow, that’s fucked up. If it weren’t for my mom’s cunt, I wouldn’t be here.”

I think there’s something in us that needs to be horrified by trivialities. Does this mean there’s nothing else in life to horrify us? Or maybe the words are too real and we want our words to be dispassionate, abstract and silent?


P.S. The point of this post is to respond to this prompt: “…think of another object or event that projects radically different meanings depending on the viewer or participant.”  I have chosen to write about the word “cunt” which “projects radically different meanings depending on the viewer or participant.If you don’t like the word, don’t comment to that effect here.  Just don’t use the word. That’s your choice. However, you could try to imagine the word NOT used in a derogatory or hostile manner. Would it bother you then?

Here’s another interesting take on this amazing word:

This was written in response to Bumblepuppies’ weekly writing prompt. This week it is this: For this week’s challenge, think of another object or event that projects radically different meanings depending on the viewer or participant.  Then, write a true or fictional story (or even a poem) that incorporates the differing perceptions people have of your chosen topic. You can find it here:

And subscribe to it here:

15 thoughts on “Bring Back the “C” Word

  1. Context, context. It wasn’t offensive the way D.H. used it, nor the way it was used by Elizabethan writers. But it IS offensive the way it is used by modern thugs. It’s not just the word. It’s what the person who said it mean by it.

    Personally, I’m of the sticks and stones school of words — against demonizing words, books, and ideas on principle. But I can understand the point of view others might take.

  2. The interesting thing about the word “cunt” is that it derives from the same word that “quaint” does, and can you imagine more disparate meaning? The Middle English word was “queynt” and Chaucer used it to good effect in the Wife of Bath’s Tale. It was the early version of the pun, as it carried both meanings every time it was used. I haven’t ever counted how many times he used it, and I suppose some boring day where the weather is too nasty to go outside, I’ll count them. It may be an amusing task, seeing all the places where Chaucer played this very popular trick.

    • qwim is nice, too. 🙂 One of my professors made a concordance of Chaucer. If you found that you could find how many times Chaucer wrote “cunt” very easily!

  3. Well, damn. I was already for some real annoyance here. What the fuck did I get? Total agreement with your stance. Americans especially are such prudish hypocrites. We can see people literally torn to shreds in umpteen ways on tv but show a pair of boobies? Eeek. See two men kissing? Outrage! Say “fuck you” and mean it? Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I’m pretty sure I don’t get some followers because my blog title starts out with wtf… and ya know what? I don’t want those followers or readers. Eff em.

    • A sanctimonious individual posted two uncomprehending responses (she seems to have thought I meant that it was OK to call people cunts in a derogatory way, stupid cow). I finally just deleted her responses. I believe in freedom of speech, but not freedom of stupid hypocritical illiteracy. So silly this world sometimes. 🙂 All I can say is WTF???

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.
    I also go by the “sticks and stones” way of living, but having children of my own, I do have to be careful what is said around them and what they say.

    Great post!

    • I totally understand that kids can’t go out into our world yelling “Hello, cunt!” in a friendly fashion… 😉 I had to hide this post from my kid friends on Facebook. Thanks for the reblog!

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