A Vagina Monologue

A few months ago I wrote an article about the etymology and history of the word “fuck.” In that article, I coyly promised that an article about the word “cunt” would be forthcoming, and now, surrounded as we are by trees awash in fragrant little genitalia, ejaculating pollen into the air (and our responsive sneezes: allergic orgasms), I figure it’s time we get back to it.

Vulgar connotations notwithstanding, to my mind, eye and ear, “cunt” is the finest word in the English language for the female pudenda (although pudenda’s not bad either). This said, it’s not really all that surprising that so many people – particularly women – find the word so offensive. It’s a powerful word, with a powerful sound to it. As I wrote before, the initial hard ‘c’ primes the pump, bursting with a tangible pop into auditory space. Then the word glides languidly into the middle schwa sound, a pre-vocal groan of visceral delight: uuuuhhhhh – The smoothness and vibration of the penultimate ‘n’ then flows into that coquettish little ‘t,’ which perfectly punctuates the word.

The word just sounds naughty, you have to admit it. Go on, try it: not the harsh barked form of the word, used as a pejorative of the lowest stripe (a disservice to the one so designated as well as to the lovely word itself), but as the gentle verbal echo of the thing it represents. See what I mean? Said right, breathed out and caressed by your tongue against the back of your teeth, the word is almost onomatopoeia: a nice word for a nice thing.

But it’s not just the sound of the word that makes it great; it’s its ancient lineage. We find many close cognates in other languages, the Spanish co퀨͌�o being the one most familiar to people of the U.S. By medical definition, the word means “female intercrural foramen.” The first instance we have of the word in its present form in English was in the ca. 1230 London street name “Gropecuntlane,” a red-candle district, presumably. In Middle English it was “cunte,” which in turn was derived, probably, from the Old Norse “kunta.” By reverse extrapolation one can then trace this back to Proto-Germanic “kunton.”

There is also a direct correlation with the Latin “cunnus,” (from which our yummy little word “cunnilingus” is derived) though some researchers dispute this. “Cunnus” meant “vulva” in Latin, and its origin before this is somewhat hazy. It seems to come from the Proto-Indo-European (henceforth PIE) word “gwen”, which is the root of the words “queen” and the Greek “gyne” (woman), which we, of course, find now in the words “gynecology” and “misogyny.” Others trace it to PIE “geu” (hollow place), or to “skeu” (to conceal).

One cognate in Dutch is “de kont” meaning “bottom, arse,” which ties it, in my mind, to the British English “fanny,” often used to mean female genitalia. In Kentucky, where I grew up, it meant the same as the Dutch kont. The Dutch have some other lovely poetic forms for this lovely poetic spot, namely liefdesgrot, “cave of love,” and my favorite, vleesroos, “rose of flesh.”

“Cunt” is further superior to “vagina” in that, whereas cunt means cunt, defined on its own terms, “vagina” actually means “sheath,” which defines it in terms of the penis. Certainly the young women of Portland would have much to argue with the idea of their cunts being defined merely in terms of cocks. I stopped by the “live acts of homosexuality” tent last week seeking some answers to this question, but was chased away by an enraged drag queen and a kickboxing instructor named Sue – journalism can be dangerous!

It’s quite a positive development among modern feminists that they retake the word. It’s an ancient, honorable word, concise, melodic, and to the point. Taking the word back acknowledges its rich etymological lineage, rejecting the patriarchal term “vagina.” It shows historical and literary awareness, and I’d also say it shows a lot of balls, but would that be a little incongruous in this article?

So, ladies, don’t be offended by the word (or this article) anymore! Know that your cunts are the passageways of life, the holy, pink highway of creation. No connotation (cunnotation?), however twisted or slurred by drunken wretches or sexist thugs, can cheapen and demean that which you carry there, just below your belts. It’s the same old fear of the feminine divine principle as in the Bible where the Goddess Astarte’s name is changed to the masculine form Astoreth, in essence castrating her; stealing her female power. Maya Angelou knew it, when she wrote, in her poem I Rise:

“Does my sexiness upset you?/ Does it come as a surprise/ That I dance like I’ve got diamonds/ At the meeting of my thighs?”