Because the most interesting parts of our history lie in the origins of things: customs, myths, legends and words. Especially swear words. While some will argue that profanity is the crutch of inarticulate motherfuckers, let us look at where theres roots lie, and where our vulgar tongue grows from…
From the depths of konnos from the Greek, and the cunnus of Latin dictionaries… a nasty name for the idea of ‘a nasty thing’. It was omitted by the Oxford dictionary and the English Dialect Dictionary, however both include words that mean the same thing. While it’s neither slang, nor is it cant: it’s still very much a ‘language’ word, of classic origins and belonging to the vulgar family. The etymology is obscure… The Greek ‘konnos’ a trinket, the beard, and the fashion of wearing the hair with a tuft, is not necessarily the sense-original of the Latin ‘cunnus” but kunos and kusthos (related to the Sanskrit ‘cushi’ which means ditch) supply that. No mention of clams, though.
Chaucer had spelt it ‘queynte’ or ‘queinte’, a pronunciation that as ‘quaint’ survived in northern England until 1890 at least. It was thought that Chaucer might have combined this with the Old French ‘coing’ with the Middle English form ‘cunte’. It may have also come from Old Norse ‘kunta’ and Old Frisian ‘kunte’ meaning vulva. Polite society used the slang word ‘monosyllable’ for cunt throughout 1720 – 1880. Since 1900 few synonyms had been coined, but then again not many are needed, as this became a universal. After we came onto the word cunt (heh) we didn’t really need anything else. But the word still has a noble history….
From the learned appositeness of Urquhart’s ‘contrpunctum’ which sounds distinctly steampunkish but not terribly sexy to the stuffy prettiness of Herrick’s ‘postern gate to Elysian fields’, from the, ahem, bluntness of Durfrey’s ‘gap’ to the exoticness of Donne’s ‘centrique part’, from the more crassness of ‘fleshy part’. Shakespeare’s description of lady parts is ‘circle’ which is a far cry from Florio’s ‘the brat-getting place’ and between the mundane and extreme lies Lord Coke’s label ‘star over the garter’.
Other classical terms include (but are not limited to): bite, black joke, bottomless pit, brown madam, Miss Brown, Buckinger’s boot, crinkum-crankum, custom-house goods (commonly used in brothels), dumb glutton (good for after too much MDMA or vodka), Eve’s custom-house, gigg, hat, Madge, man-trap, Miss Laycock, mossy face, muff, natch, pitcher, quim (from the Spanish ‘quemar’ meaning ‘to burn’), tuzzy muzzy, vernerable monosyllable and ware…
But still, like a little black dress that fits all occasions from dirty bedroom dialog to a cuss from midnight stubbing one’s toe on the coffee table corner, you can’t beat a classic.
Little Miss Risk