What's So Wrong With The Word C**t? (NSFW)

In fact, c**t is a fantastic, visceral word that’s so old we don’t even know its exact origins.

Last week comedian and late-night host Samantha Bee called President Trump’s daughter Ivanka a “feckless c**t” during her show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and the world still hasn’t quite recovered from the apparent trauma.

Bee was skewering Trump’s ignorant social media output during a national debate about her father’s immigration policy -- a subject for which the elder Trump daughter has long been under fire after the release of an especially tone-deaf Instagram photo.

However, as with Cathy Griffin’s severed Donald Trump head, or Michelle Wolf’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders smokey eye crack, Bee’s “feckless c**t” quip was apparently “too far” for conventional taste to allow.

Since the episode aired, TBS has had several major advertisers pull support from Full Frontal, and Bee has publicly apologised for the joke, which she called “inappropriate and inexcusable”. “I crossed a line,” Bee said in a statement to the media “and I deeply regret it.” President Donald Trump weighed in, as he is wont to do, calling for Bee’s job to be terminated “for the horrible language used on her low-ratings show”.

But what is so wrong with “c**t”, anyway -- a word now so taboo in contemporary society, even this article must asterisk it out?

Don't say it! Don't say it! Image: Getty.

Considered by most in polite company to be the worst swear word, c**t has long been the very pinnacle of inexcusably foul language. As a primary-school child, I remembered learning the basics on the playground -- dick, arse, shit, fuck -- but I’ll admit it was several years hence before I understood what my classmates meant when they referred in hushed tones to “the c-word”.

When I finally learned the word and what it meant, I was confused: wasn’t calling someone a “c**t” just like calling them a “prick”, or a “dickhead”? It was not, of course. Why? Because sexism.

In fact, c**t is a fantastic, visceral word that’s so old we don’t even know its exact origins -- though it contains sounds common in both ancient European and Indian dialects. In Sanskrit the word kunthi refers to women’s genitalia. The word kunt was also found in the 25th-century BC writings of Egyptian vizier Ptah-Hotep, meaning “women” and appearing to be a term of respect.

Much has been written about this topic. Image: Getty.

In old Norse, Germanic and later in English dialect, the word c**t survived well into medieval life as a simple descriptive term. Around the 1400s the word was used often to describe place names, and found in about 20 “gropecuntlanes” (as in “meatcutlanes” to house butchers’), to mark out local red-light districts.

Lexicographers like to link c**t with its far broader and earlier roots, to the Latin cunnus, meaning “sword sheath” -- actually the word from which the word “vagina” takes its, ahem, roots. So, when considering the feminism of your genitalia monikers, c**t is in fact the less misogynist of the two, as it is not referring to the c**t as a house for male genitalia.

It appears writers like Chaucer and Shakespeare began to augment the meaning of c**t somewhat via their witty wordplay and -- for Shakespeare especially -- through introspective observations about women’s place (and the value of their sexuality) in Middle English society. Through their observations the c**t took on more representational qualities linked to the gender who most commonly had one.

Nothing wrong with c**t -- thou doth protest too much. Image: Getty.

Then, as women’s sexuality became more commodified, demonised and buried by taboo, the commonplace term for its centre of operations, c**t also became a word of increasing disgust. By the time the turn of the twentieth century introduced c**t to many dictionaries it was considered a word inappropriate for polite society.

Reclaiming the word c**t has long been a feminist concern, though very often discussions around the use of the word are co-opted by TERFs -- the distasteful, essentialist splinter-cell of trans-exclusionary radical feminists who worship traditionally “female” genitalia and treat feminism as an access-only pursuit for “real women”.

My interest in grabbing back the c**t, so to speak, is nothing to do with “yoni worship” or any such nonsense, but simply with smashing the delusional, oppressive idea that any word associated with a body part that half the population possesses should be considered “inappropriate and inexcusable”.

By further perpetuating the myth that a simple descriptive word for the human body is so repugnant it should not be spoken even in jest, we are orchestrating our own oppression. C**t is no more an inappropriate word than penis or anus -- or hand or foot or ear or collarbone. Would any news organisation dare to asterisk out those words?

It's a hairy topic. Image: Getty.

Quarantining c**t is another small but significant tyranny in the myriad ways women are told they are different, other, separate, silent. (And people with c**ts, because remember not all women have c**ts and not all people with c**s are women.) Another way in which we are not allowed to speak about and for ourselves and our bodies -- are told we are not enough.

And if we can laugh at a man down the shops calling the former Prime Minister of Australia a dickhead, we can be okay with Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt”.