In defence of Cunt

Tim Ireland has started a campaign to end the use of “Cunt.”

Obviously, if your intention is to abuse/offend as many people as possible, ‘cunt’ can get you halfway home without difficulty, but if your intention is to abuse only one person (or a small group) where is the justice in any potential/widespread collateral damage just by using the wrong word?

I think this misses some of the nuance of cunt, some of the depth and character that this word can bring that no other can. If you really want to denigrate, really want to express your disdain then there really only is one word.

First of all there’s the visceral sensation of saying it, from the click at the back of your throat to the burst of spittle from your tongue bouncing of the roof of your mouth, it is a word which feels like an insult even before you know what it means.

It is also not just any other word, it has a heritage that few other words can match. It dates back centuries and has had an impact across all our towns and cities and great literary masterpieces.

Don’t believe me?

What ails you that you grumble thus and groan?
Is it because you’d have my cunt alone?
Why take it all, lo, have it every bit;
Peter! Beshrew you but you’re fond of it!

That’s Chaucer and The Wife of Bath’s Prologue from Canterbury Tales. Cunt is no ordinary swearword it is dirty word that your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddad knew and knew well.

There’s more of course. You might live there, you might think there’s nothing cunty about living on Grape Lane, but there is.

You see, Grape Lane hasn’t always been Grape Lane. It used to be Gropecunt Lane until the 16th Century PC brigade began changing the names. Place names used to reflect what happened there and Gropecunt Lane was where you went to grope cunt and procure yourself a prostitute.

That’s what makes it a good swear word, it has a weight of history about it. Survival isn’t easy when you’re a word. There’s always upstarts trying to take your place so it takes real class to survive, and cunt has class in abundance.

So when Anton Vowl says that Littlejohn isn’t a cunt he is right, the man is a cynical bastard. Cunt gets overused, people like Obo and DK cheapen it a little because it is a world with gravitas it should be used sparingly.

Cunt should be saved for special occasions. Like this:


…and this:


Sometimes nothing else will do. Sometimes you need centuries success to ensure your message gets across. The Express and The Star and their owner the gay pornography Richard Desmond aren’t just scum, they’re cunts.

37 thoughts on “In defence of Cunt

  1. Brilliant post. Yet even with the weight of history and the rage of Rochester this word still doesn’t seem enough to really describe those two headlines / editorials.

  2. I really don’t like the word and try not to use, but your example with the newspapers makes an excellent point – sometimes it IS the only word that will do!!

  3. Excellent post. I shall bear it in mind. Where do we stand on ‘cloaca’ then?

  4. I thought they were pretending not to hate gays, because they think it gives them a chance to slag Muslims off? Fascinating though unsurprising to see which way they ended up jumping.

    I couldn’t do without cunt. It would be like asking an Indian restaurant not to hve turmeric or cumin on its shelves. But then I don’t use the word in a misogynistic sense, just because it seems to work so well.

  5. DHG: Actually, I used Littlejohn to make my point, but it certainly applies to many people like him.

    Left Outside: Thanks for taking the time to join the debate. I agree with you about the primal grunt of the word ‘cunt’ when it’s spoken/spat at someone, and cloaca is a poor substitute on that front. I am mainly talking about its use online, and I stopped mouthing along to what I was reading a few weeks ago thanks to a great self help book and some medica… but I disgress. I also think that centuries of tradition are a fine thing, but language evolves, and if enough people agree with me, the fates may yet favour ‘cloaca’.

  6. Language evolves, but evolution is a complicated and only partly understood natural process, which when attempted artificially can result in sterility and decline. One need only compare a couple of tame, modern, selectively-bred cows with a couple of bullocks in their natural state to see the point.

  7. I’m totally torn on this issue, but this post has created the largest plate of food for thought.

  8. Or Orange carrots.

    Artificial selection in words is fine. You’ll only be successful if you get popular support and I’m not sure that a blanket campaign against cunt will work.

    Arguing to make its use more selective is something that I would back, and that I think is needed.

    Richard Littlejohn is a cloaca, its very accurate. But look at that Express front page, ask yourself what word is bubbling up inside of you. You know what it is and it isn’t “cloaca.”

    Its difficult to say “I don’t use it in a misogynistic sense” because it is a misogynistic word.

    I don’t think it has to be though. Words can signify many things without their meaning bleeding into one another. I think as attitudes change then attitudes to cunt change.

  9. ‘Cunt’ has its place, I just don’t think it should stay at the top of the chart, especially when ‘cloaca’ is the superior orifice *and* is less damaging/hurtful to almost everyone who can read.

    1. True, objectively cloaca is a better word.

      Subjectively it doesn’t have the necessary vitriol, history, context or release.

      Its called the C bomb for a reason, you need to consider what happens when you drop it.

      1. A good point. Now that I think about it, if the image results for ‘cloaca’ leaned away from Littlejohn and more towards something like ‘goatse*’, we’d generate bomb-like powers in a very short time.

        (revises evil plans)

        [*I got some stick for this and yes, I was looking for something other than ‘cunt’ at the time]

  10. First off, I am a feminist, but the word cunt doesn’t give me the vapours. Maybe this is because I used to live in Edinburgh, where it’s use is far commoner and it’s treated a bit like ‘sod’.

    I mean, you wouldn’t say it to your Granny, or in a job interview. But you’d happily call a mate a ‘daft cunt’ and mean it affectionately.

    And yes, I do use the word, so I’m not going to occupy the moral high ground about it. I once emptied a rather sedate restaurant in the States by shouting at a colleague that he was a ‘cunting fucking idiot’ in the middle of a drink-fuelled argument. I do try to remember to use it less in places where people are going to be shocked by it. The CFI incident was not really big or clever, and probably upset some people who’d been having a perfectly nice meal.

    However, I think in the post above you’ve not really dealt with the substance of WHY feminists might object to the word. I mean, if people are shocked just because you are using *the worst word*, then yeah, fair enough, some things (The Express among them) deserve *the worst word*. Those people can fuck off.

    But the feminist point is surely, why is a word for lady-bits the *worst* thing you can call someone? Isn’t that just a little bit woman-hating? I mean, surely cunts are lovely things? Warm, soft, loving things? Isn’t it a bit disturbing the way the word is spat out as the greatest insult?

  11. Surely if people who object to the word on grounds of sexism, then they should equally find opprobrium within usage of the words, “dick”, “cock”, “penis”, “dickhead”, “tool” etc…

    I don’t think, incidentally, that either usage of genitalia is used offensively out of sexism, and more to do with the fact of sexual taboos. Most “swear” words are sexual in nature, and encompass the whole range of things that are sexually-based.

    1. Void,

      As Sophia Collins as pointed out (and I pointed out in my original post), it is not the use of genitalia as an insult that is the issue in terms of gender equality, it is the placement of ‘cunt’ as the most offensive.

      1. Ah, I understand now. On that point, I’d probably agree. I, myself, would find being called a “scumbag” infinitely more offensive than “cunt”, “dick”, “motherfucker”, or whatever.

  12. Describe what you are saying about a person when you call them a cunt. It will have nothing to do with genitalia. Just like calling someone a bastard has nothing to with they’re legitimacy.

    ‘Cunt’ has two meanings, neither connected to each other. They may have been at one time, but not now.

    1. I think that’s a little bit disingenuous. Clearly the pejorative meaning started off as an analogy – you’re insulting someone by comparing them to something you think is unpleasant, or that it will be unflattering to be compared to.

      I can’t think of an insult – from shit, to dickhead, to nazi – that isn’t underpinned by an analogy like this. It’s not like there’s an example where we just decided ‘this word sounds insulting’ and there’s no connection to another meaning.

      So I think you can’t really say the two meanings are unconnected to each other.

  13. I think it’s a great word and there’s no way I’d stop using it. I mean the only people that get called it these days are when I’m playing some online game and I’m swearing in disbelief at the stupidity of team mates or a particularly sneaky and skilled opponent..!

    1. Huh?

      Do go on… because it seems pretty sexist in English English as well. Scots English perhaps not, but then I haven’t really studied that.

  14. I feared this would be some germaine greeresque spunty bumpf, but I was cankily impressed by the arguments litergency. Well done LO

  15. An English Graduate Writes: it’s a bit ironic that your quote from Chaucer, which is supposed to demonstrate the antiquity of the word ‘cunt’, is actually from a rendering of Chaucer into modern English. What the wife of Bath actually said was

    What eyleth yow to grucche thus and grone?
    Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
    Wy, taak it al! Lo, have it every deel!
    Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel

    Note spelling – while the word meant ‘cunt’ it could also be read as ‘quaint’, so people could persuade themselves that she was referring to “my quaint (small and oddly attractive) thing” rather than using the word outright.

    For myself, I’m a lecturer, & I usually try to write stuff I wouldn’t be too embarrassed about my students – or their parents – reading. So very few ‘fuck’s and hardly any ‘cunt’s. To me it’s quite a specialised insult, anyway, & one that very few people I write about actually deserve.

  16. Oh, it’s there. Never mind. Delete my previous comment, and this one. I’ll get my coat.

  17. Nah I’ll leave them. I don’t have a perfect
    CSS script on this page, so links aren’t always easy to spot.

    Thank you very much for the info though.

    I did think the Chaucer quote was a little, well, modern sounding, but I hate to let that get in the way of a good argument.

    Cunt has had a variety of spellings and the passage quoted was quoted to me by my English Language A Teacher who wanted us to take swearing seriously. So I always assumed it was fairly widely agreed there was a cunt in Chaucer. For example “queynte” is one of the spellings which has been found in use for Gropequeynte Lane.

    (I actually did a project on swearing for my A level and even got to use the phrase “past participle of ‘to fuck'” into it.)

    I agree its a specialised insult. I use it a little to freely, but those papers deserve it.

  18. who cares really. I get called a cunt on a daily basis, I also call people cunts daily, and I will not give up my freedom of speech! I will say what I want, when I want. This is why our fathers went to war so you can live a life of freedom without fear of being killed or exterminated for being different. I also noticed the author of this little masterpeice is a bit anti-gay, get over it! we are not going stop. People will continue to have sex in the poo-hole long after youve died, in which nobody will care anyway. What goes on in your bedroom is your business, and likewise what happens in mine is the same. Its none of your fucking business.

    1. Sorry if I sounded homophobic (the grammar’s fucked to begin with), the main point to put across is that Richard Desmond is a hypocrite who attacks gays but also makes money off flogging gay pornography. I’m not homophobic, just a very poor writer. So I apologise. I’m very much in favour of things going in bums.

      With respect to the rest of your comment. Our father’s didn’t go to war for our right to say cunt all the time. You do have the freedom of speech to say cunt, and probably always will. Other people have the freedom to criticise you and they will. This piece was written by me…JESUS 3 years ago?!…and it was me explaining why I liked saying cunt then.

      I probably use it less now, but I still agree it’s a great word, you cunt.

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