Etymology Of Cunt
The etymology of 'cunt' is actually considerably more complex than is generally supposed. The word's etymology is highly contentious, as Alex Games explains: "Language scholars have been speculating for years about the etymological origins of the 'c-word'" (2006). A consensus has not yet been reached, as Ruth Wajnryb admits in A Cunt Of A Word: "Etymologists are unlikely to come to an agreement about the origins of CUNT any time soon" (2004), and Mark Morton is even more despairing: "no-one really knows the ulterior origin of cunt" (2003). Greek Macedonian terms for 'woman' - 'guda', 'gune', and 'gyne' - have been suggested as the word's sources, as have the Anglo-Saxon 'cynd' and the Latin 'cutis' ('skin'), though these theories are not widely supported. Perhaps the clearest method of structuring the complex etymology of 'cunt' is to approach it letter by letter, and this is the approach I have taken here. I have examined the Indo-European, Latin, Greek, Celtic, and Dutch linguistic influences on 'cunt', and also discussed the wide variety of the word's contemporary manifestations.
Indo-European: Cu And Femininity
The prefix 'cu' is an expression of "quintessential femineity" (Eric Partridge, 1961), confirming 'cunt' as a truly feminine term. The synonymy between 'cu' and femininity was in place even before the development of written language: "in the unwritten prehistoric Indo-European [...] languages 'cu' or 'koo' was a word base expressing 'feminine', 'fecund' and associated notions" (Tony Thorne, 1990). The proto-Indo-European 'cu' is also cognate with other feminine/vaginal terms, such as the Hebrew 'cus'; the Arabic 'cush', 'kush', and 'khunt'; the Nostratic 'kuni' ('woman'); the Irish 'cuint' ('cunt'). Mark Morton suggests that the Indo-European 'skeu' ('to conceal') is also related.
Thus, 'cu' and 'koo', both pronounced 'coo', were ancient monosyllabic sounds implying femininity. 'Coo' and 'cou' are modern slang terms for vagina, based on these ancient sounds. Other vaginal slang words, such as 'cooch', 'coot', 'cooter', 'cooz', 'cooze', 'coozie', 'coozy', 'cookie', 'choochy', 'chocha', 'cootch', and 'coochie snorcher' are extensions of them. 'Coochie snorcher', as in The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could from The Vagina Monologues, is a childish euphemism for 'cunt' that has generated the following elaborate variants:
The phrase also inspired the song titles Itchycoo Park (The Small Faces, 1967), Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo (Rick Derringer, 1974), and (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man (Muddy Waters, 1954). Hoochie Coochie Men was also the name of Long John Baldry's backing band during the 1960s.
The feminine 'cu' word-base is also the source of the modern 'cow', applied to female animals, one of the earliest recorded forms of which is the Old Frisian 'ku', indicating the link with 'cu'. Other early forms include the Old Saxon 'ko', the Dutch 'koe', the Old Higher German 'kuo' and 'chuo', the German 'kuhe' and 'kuh', the Old Norse 'kyr', the Germanic 'kouz', the Old English 'cy' (also 'cua' and 'cyna'), and the Middle English 'kine' and 'kye'.
The prefix has also been linked to elliptical (thus, perhaps, symbolically vaginal) terms such as 'gud' (Indo-European, 'enclosure'), 'cucuteni' ('womb-shaped Roman vase'), 'cod' ('bag'), 'cubby-hole' ('snug place'), 'cove' ('concave chamber'), and 'keel' ('convex ridge'). The Italian 'guanto' ('glove') and the Irish 'cuan' ('harbour') may also be related, as they share with 'vagina' the literal meaning 'receptacle'. Even 'cudgel' has been suggested as another link, though a cudgel seems more like a cock than a cunt, and indeed none of these terms have the demonstrably feminine associations of 'cunt' or 'cow'.
'Cu' also has associations with knowledge: 'can' and 'ken' (both 'to know') evolved from the 'cu'/'ku' prefix. RF Rattray highlights the connection between femininity and knowledge: "The root cu appears in countless words from cowrie, Cypris, down to cow; the root cun has two lines of descent, the one emphasising the mother and the other knowledge: Cynthia and [...] cunt, on the one hand, and cunning, on the other" (1961).
Indeed, there is a significant linguistic connection between sex and knowledge: one can 'conceive' both an idea and a baby, and 'ken' means both 'know' and 'give birth'. 'Ken' shares a genealogical meaning with 'kin' and 'kind', from the Old English 'cyn' and the Gothic 'kuni'. It also has vaginal connotations: "['kin'] meant not only matrilineal blood relations but also a cleft or crevice, the Goddess's genital opening" (Barbara G Walker, 1983).
The Latin 'cognoscere', related to 'cognate', may indeed be cognate with the sexual organ 'cunt'. Knowledge-related words such as 'connote', 'canny', and 'cunning' may also be etymologically related to it, though such a connection is admittedly tenuous. Less debatable is the connection between 'cunctipotent' and 'cunt': both are derived from the Latin 'cunnus'. Geoffrey Chaucer's 'cunt'-inspired term 'queynte' is yet another link between sex and knowledge, as he uses it to mean both 'vagina' and 'cunning'.
Cw: The Celtic Cu
In Celtic and modern Welsh, 'cu' is rendered as 'cw', a similarly feminine prefix influencing the Old English 'cwithe' ('womb', from the Welsh 'cwtch'). The 'cw' prefix can be traced back to the Indo-European 'gwen', which also influenced the Greek 'gune' and 'gunaikos', the Sumerian 'gagu', and the feminine/vaginal prefix 'gyn'.
Feminine 'gyn' terms include:
The form is also used, in a negative sense, to describe the hatred of women: 'gynography', 'gynephobia'/'gynophobia', 'misogyny', 'misogynist', 'misogyne', 'misogynic', 'misogynous', 'misogynistic', 'misogynistical', and 'misogynism'. The female sex androids in Inosensu: Kokaku Kidotai (Mamoru Oshii, 2004) are called "Gynoids". Mary Daly, in Gyn/Ecology (1978), coined the new terms "gynaesthesia", "gynocentric", "gynography", and "gynomorphic".
Sharing the 'cw' prefix is 'cwe', meaning 'woman', influencing the Old English 'cuman' and 'cwene'. Anglicised phonetically, 'cwene' became 'quean', and is related to the Oromotic term 'qena', the Lowland Scottish 'quin', the Dutch 'kween', the Old Higher German 'quena' and 'quina', the Gothic 'quens' and 'qino', the Germanic 'kwenon' and 'kwaeniz', the Old Norse 'kvaen' (also 'kvan', 'kvenna', and 'kvinna'), the Middle English 'queene' and 'quene', and the modern English 'quean' and 'queen'.
'Cwm' also shares the 'cw' prefix, however its feminine origins seem initially perplexing, as it means 'valley'. In fact, this topographical definition is clearly a vaginal metaphor, as valleys are as furrowed and fertile as vaginas (although the Welsh slang words for 'vagina' are 'cont' and 'chuint' rather than 'cwm'). 'Cwm' is found in the title of the traditional song Cwm Rhondda ('Rhondda Valley'), the soap-opera Pobol Y Cwm ('People Of The Valley'), and the slang term 'pobolycwm' ('people who like quim'). Taking the vagina metaphor into account, we are all 'people of the valley' through birth.
'Cwm' is pronounced 'come', though 'quim', an English slang term for 'vagina', is a mispronounced Anglicisation of it. Alternative etymologies for 'quim' include possibilities such as 'cweman' (Old English, 'to please') and 'qemar' (Spanish, 'to burn'). Variants of 'quim' include 'qwim', 'quiff', 'quin', and 'quem', and it has been combined with 'mince' to form 'quince' ('effeminate'). 'Quimbledon', a combination of 'quim' and 'Wimbledon', is a slang word describing male spectatorship of all-female sports. 'Quimbecile' ('idiot'), is a combination of 'quim' and 'imbecile'. Other extended forms of 'quim' include: 'quim-trim' ('pubic haircut'), 'quimle' ('cunnilingus'), 'quimble' ('male sexual excitement'), 'quimby' ('middle person in a threesome'), 'stretched quimosine' ('elongated vagina', a pun on 'stretch limousine'), 'quimpotent' ('unable to reach orgasm'), 'quim bling' ('genital jewellery'), 'quim reaper' ('lothario', a pun on 'grim reaper'), 'quim strings' ('fallopian tubes'), 'quim pro quo' ('bartering for sex', a pun on the Latin 'quid pro quo'), 'Siamese quims' ('lesbian couples', a pun on 'Siamese twins'), and 'quim chin' ('beard'). The film Dr Loo And The Phaleks includes a character called Quimberly Dickmore.
'Quim' has been extended to form 'quimwedge' (literally 'vaginal wedge', thus 'penis'), which is especially interesting as it utilises 'wedge' to mean 'penis' when, in fact, 'cunt' itself derives from the Latin for 'wedge' ('cuneus'). Dorion Burt's Decunta (197-) provides a further oxymoronic 'cunt'/'penis' connection: a large sculpture filled with whiskey, it blatantly phallic in shape yet vaginal in name. There is a lesbian magazine titled Quim, and related to the term are the portmanteau words 'queef', 'kweef', 'quiff', and 'queefage', all meaning 'vaginal fart' and derived from 'quim' in combination with 'whiff'.
In addition to the clumsily Anglicised 'quim', 'cwm' was also adopted into English with the more accurate phonetic spelling 'coombe', from the Old English 'cumb'. 'Coombe' and its variants 'combe', 'comb', and 'coomb' remain common components of surnames and placenames. Indeed, so common is the word in English placenames that Morecambe Bay is often mis-spelt Morecombe: as Ian Mayes is at pains to point out, "It is not Morcombe Bay [...] it is Morcambe Bay" (2001). In England, there are nineteen places called Coombe (one each in Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Kent; two each in Somerset and Wiltshire; three in Devon; six in Cornwall) and eight called Combe (one each in East Sussex, Herefordshire, West Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Somerset; three in Devon). There is also a song titled Biddy Mulligan: The Pride Of The Coombe (The Clancy Brothers, 196-):
"I'm a buxom fine widow, I live in a spot
In Dublin, they call it the Coombe.
Me shops and me stalls are laid out on the street,
And me palace consists of one room".
In America, 'combe' appears in the name of Buncombe County, from which the slang term 'bunkum' is derived. Congressional representative Felix Walker, ending a long-winded House of Representatives speech in 1821, insisted that he was "bound to make a speech for Buncombe" (Jonathon Green, 1998). Thus, 'buncombe' became synonymous with nonsensical speech, and was later simplified to 'bunkum'.
Latin: From Cu To Cun
We have seen how 'cu' originated as an ancient feminine term. In the Romance languages, the 'cu' prefix became 'co', as in 'coynte', the Italian 'conno' and 'cunno', the Portugese 'cona', and the Catalan 'cony'. This 'co' prefix may also suggest a possible link with the Old English 'cot', forerunner of 'cottage', and with the modern English 'codpiece', 'cobweb', 'coop', 'cog', 'cock', 'chicken', 'cudgel', and 'kobold', though this is not proven.
The 'co' prefix is found most abundantly in Spanish, which provides 'concha' ('vagina'), 'chocha' ('lagoon', a vaginal metaphor), and 'cono' ('vagina'). Suzi Feay finds 'cono' preferable to the coarser-sounding 'cunt': "I must say, 'cono' is a much nicer word than its English equivalent" (2003). There is also a Castilian Spanish variant ('conacho'), and a milder euphemistic form: 'cona' and 'conazo'. 'Cono' and its derivatives are practically ubiquitous in the Spanish language, as Stephen Burgen explains: "People are often shocked at the shear quantity of conos in Spanish discourse" (1996). In Mexico, Spaniards are known colloquially as 'los conos', indicating Mexican surprise at the word's prevalence in Spain.
'Cono' is significantly milder than its English equivalent, 'cunt', and therefore closely mirrors the similarly mild and omnipresent French term 'con' (of which more later). The transition from 'cu' to 'co' can be seen most clearly in the progression from the Old French 'cun' and 'cunne', to the Middle French 'com' and 'coun', and the modern French 'con'. These terms contain the letter 'n', and this is a clue that their evolution from 'cu' was indirect. The missing link is the Latin term 'cuneus', meaning 'wedge'.
'Wedge' and 'cunt', however, seem unlikely associates, as Jane Mills explains: "I know what a cunt looks like, and the word 'wedge' doesn't sort of spring to mind!" (Kerry Richardson, 1994). The 'wedge'/'cunt' link actually rests on their shared cuneiform shape: 'cuneus' led to both 'cuneiform' and 'cunt', with both words describing wedge-shaped triangular formations. The Latin 'cuneat'/'cuneate' and 'cuneare' also derive from 'cuneus', and are the sources of the modern 'coin'. Euphemistically, 'coin' means 'conceive', and 'coiner' can refer to a man who impregnates a woman, thus the word has a demonstrably sexual, if not explicitly genital, connection.
Thus, 'cuneiform', 'coin', and 'cunt' share the same etymological origin: 'cuneus'. The connection between 'cuneus' and 'cunt' is 'cunnus' (Latin for 'vagina'), and this connection is most clearly demonstrated by the term 'cunnilingus' ('oral stimulation of the vagina'). In this combination of 'cunnus' and 'lingere' ('to lick'), we can see that 'cunnus' is used in direct reference to the vagina, demonstrating that the 'cun' prefix it shares with 'cunt' is more than coincidental.
Euphemistic variants of 'cunnilingus' include 'cunnilinctus', 'cumulonimbus', 'cunning lingus', 'Colonel Lingus' (t-shirt slogan), and "Canni langi" (Michelle Hanson, 2003). It is often comically confused with 'cunning linguist' and was evoked by the song and album (The Memory) Kinda Lingers (1982). Viz has created the convoluted euphemisms "cumulously nimbate" and "cumulonimbulate" (Roger Mellie, 2005). 'Cunnus' also occurs in the phrase 'cunnus diaboli', mediaeval "cunt-shrine[s]" known as 'devilish cunts' and defined by Barbara G Walker as "Sacred places associated with the world-cunt [that] sometimes embarrassed Victorian scholars who failed to understand their earlier meaning" (1983).
There are many terms derived from 'cunnus' that have either literal or metaphorical vaginal or maternal connotations: the Roman goddess Cunina, the pagan goddess Cundrie, the Welsh 'cunnog', 'cuniculus' ('passageway'), 'cununa', and 'cunabula' ('cradle'). 'Cunctipotent', meaning 'all-knowing' or "having cunt-magic" (Barbara G Walker, 1983), is also derived from 'cunnus', and links sex to knowledge in the manner discussed earlier. Also from 'cunnus' is 'cundy', which means 'underground water channel' and is slang for 'vaginal fluid', a vaginal metaphor in the manner of 'cwm'. The slang term 'cunnifungus' ('diseased vagina') also derives its prefix from 'cunnus'.
Dutch: From Cun To Cunt
The Greek 'kusos', 'kusthos', 'konnos' ('tuft of hair'), and 'konnus' (perhaps related to the Egyptian 'ka-t'), all emerged in parallel with 'cunnus'. Along with the Hebrew 'kus' and 'keus', they share an initial 'k' in place of the Latin 'c'. In modern Czech, 'kunda' ('vagina') is an invective equivalent to 'cunt', and is also found in the diminutive form 'kundicka' (the closest English equivalent being 'cuntkin'). In the Volga region of Russia, 'kunka' is a dialect term for 'cunt' related to 'kunat'sja' ('fuck') and 'okunat' ('plunge').
The Norwegian 'kone' ('wife') provides a further variant form, related to the 'ku' and 'cu' feminine prefixes already discussed. Modern Norwegian includes a broad lexicon of related terms, including 'torgkone' ('market-woman'), 'vaskekone' ('washer-woman'), 'gratekone' ('female mourner'), and 'kvinne' ('woman', also spelt 'kvinner' and 'kvinnelig'). Like Norway's 'kone' and its variants, there are are many other words with similar meanings, also belonging to Scandinavian languages: 'kunton', the Old Swedish 'kona', 'kundalini' ('feminine energy'), 'khan' ('Eurasian matriarch'), the Hittite 'kun' and 'kusa' ('bride'), the Basque 'kuna' (also 'cuna'), the Danish 'kusse', the Old Norse and Old Frisian 'kunta' and 'kunte', the Middle Lower German 'kutte', the Middle Higher German 'kotze' ('prostitute'), and the Icelandic 'kunta' (or 'kunt').
The Old Dutch 'kunte' later developed into the more Latinate Middle Dutch 'cunte' and 'conte', and the modern Swedish 'kuntte', though the modern Dutch term is 'kutt'. Also spelt 'kut', and extended to 'kutwijf' ('cuntwife'), 'kutt' has been used as the title of the porn magazine Kutt (2002), leading to Lee Carter's 'uncut' pun "live and unKutt" (2002). It is interesting that these Dutch examples include the suffixes 'te' and 'tt', as the final 't' of "the most notable of all vulgarisms" has always been "difficult to explain" (1961), according to Eric Partridge, who included 'cunt' in his Dictionary Of Slang And Unconventional English. The complex etymological jigsaw of this "most notorious term of all" (1947) can now be broadly pieced together: the 'cu' is Proto-Indo-European, the 'n' is Latin, and the 't' is Dutch. The Middle English 'kunte', 'cuntt', 'cunte', 'count', and 'counte' bear the marks of each of these three influences.
Case Study: Topographical And Hydrographical Metaphors
We have seen how the Celtic 'cwm' was influenced by the feminine prefix 'cu', a topographical vagina metaphor comparing the shape and fertility of valleys and vaginas. Other water-related terms also have similarly vaginal connotations, such as 'cundy' ('underground water channel'), which is a hydrographical vaginal metaphor derived from 'cunnus'. Similarly, 'cuniculus', also from 'cunnus', means 'passageway', and was applied to Roman drainage systems. 'Konnos', the Greek for 'vagina', is derived from 'cunnus' and the Sanskrit 'cushi'/'kunthi', meaning 'ditch', as both vaginas and ditches are channels for water. The Spanish 'chocha' ('lagoon') is another vaginal metaphor. The Russian 'kunka' describes two hands cupped together carrying water. 'Cut', a further term meaning 'water channel', is a recognised euphemism for 'cunt', though is not etymologically related to it.
The vaginal water channel allusion is replicated by the River Kennet in Wiltshire, as Kennet was originally Cunnit: "At Silbury Hill [the river] joins the Swallowhead or true fountain of the Kennet, which the country people call by the old name of Cunnit and it is not a little famous amongst them" (William Stukeley, 1743). Adjacent to the river is the Roman settlement Cunetio, also spelt Cunetione, Cunetzone, Cunetzione, and Cunetiu (though now known as Mildenhall). "The name ['Cunetio'] must be left unresolved", insist ALF Rivet and Colin Smith (1979), though its origin, like Kennet's, is the Celtic 'kuno'.
The rivers Kent (formerly Kenet) and Cynwyd share Kennet's etymology, and, as Michael Dames explains, Kennet's link to 'cunt' is readily apparent: "we may yet rediscover the Kennet as Cunnit, and the Swallowhead as Cunt. The name of that orifice is carried downstream in the name of the river. Cunnit is Cunnt with an extra i. As late as 1740, the peasants of the district had not abandoned the name [...] The antiquity of the form is clearly shown by the Roman riverside settlement called Cunetio - their principal town in the entire Kennet valley" (1976).
Cunt As A Proper Noun
The earliest 'cunt' citation in the Oxford English Dictionary features the word as a component of a London streetname: circa 1230 in Southwark, there was a street called Gropecuntelane (though variants of the name include Groppecountelane, Gropecontelane, and Gropecunt Lane). The street was part of the 'stews', the Southwark red-light district, though its name was not confined only to London. There was also a Gropecuntelane in Oxford (later renamed Magpie Lane), a Grapcunt Lane in York, a Cunte Street in Bristol (later renamed Host Street), and a Rue Grattecon in Paris.
London's Gropecuntelane was later shortened to Grope Lane, subsequently became Grub Street, and is now Milton Street. Martin Wainwright cites a Grope Lane in York, perhaps a sanitised form of Grapcunt Lane, which was further sanitised to Grape Lane "by staid Victorians who found the original Grope - historically related to prostitution - too blatant" (2000). Other 'cunt'-related placenames include Coombe and Kennet, discussed earlier, the evocative Ticklecunt Creek, and the fictitious "Cunt Hill" (Robert Coover, 1983). In Barcelona there is a restaurant called Bar Cuntis, and there is a town in northern England called Scunthorpe (Who Put The *@!+ In Scunthorpe?, asked Empire in 1993). There are places called Cunt in Spain and Turkey, and Spain also has a town called Cunter.
There is a cocktail called a Cunt Pump, and Graeme Donald cites another form of 'cunt' used as a proper noun, this time in mediaeval surnames, two of which predate the OED's earliest citation: "Early records mention such female names as Gunoka Cuntles (1219), Bele Wydecunthe (1328) and presumably promiscuous male sporting names such as Godwin Clawecunte (1066), John Fillecunt (1246) and Robert Clevecunt (1302)" (1994). Explaining that "Any part of the body which was unusual [or] remarkable was likely to provide a convenient nickname or surname for its owner" (1988), James McDonald cites the further example of Simon Sitbithecunte (1167, again predating the OED). Other 'cunt' names include those of the male witch Johannes Cuntius, the make-up artist Gabreil DeCunto, the actress Lilia Cuntapay, the producer Loredana Cunti, the director Sol Cuntin, the actor John Dacunto, the actor Richard Acunto, the director Luciana Rodrigues Dacunto, the drag-queen Maxine DeLaCunt, the singer Dave Cunt, the writer Maren Hancunt, and the pseudonymous director Ima Cunt ('I'm a cunt', similar to Craig Brown's "amacunt" from 1999). A Bit Of Fry And Laurie created the fictional author "Ted Cunterblast" (Roger Ordish, 1989).
The surname Kuntz has a tantalising phonetic similarity to 'Cunts', and is especially notable in the case of WD Kuntz, whose 'cunt' connection is compounded by his position as a gynaecologist. In a similar vein, Matthew Norman quotes a letter from Archibald Clerk Kerr: "[I have] a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that his name is Mustapha Kunt ['Must have a Cunt']. We all feel like that [...] but few of us would care to put it on our cards" (2003). Tom Conti has received the same treatment: Gareth McLean wrote that "Conti should probably enter the vernacular as a term of abuse" (2003), owing to its similarity to 'cunt'. The surname Kant is commonly confused with 'cunt', as Mark Lawson discovered to his cost on a live television programme: "My error was not to have known that the Philosopher Immanuel Kant's surname is habitually pronounced by academics to rhyme with "punt"" (2003). Furthermore, the name of a character in the film I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name, Quint, has been interpreted as a reference to 'cunt'.
Terence Meaden suggests that legal suppression of 'cunt' constituted "a series of vicious witch hunts encouraged by an evil establishment wishing to suppress what amounted to apparent signs of Goddess beliefs" (1992), and, indeed, there was a Japanese goddess Cunda, a Korean Goddess Quani (the Tasmanian 'quani' means 'woman'), a Phoenician priestess Qudshu, a Sumerian priestess Quadasha, and, in India, a goddess known variously as Cunti-Devi, Cunti, Kun, Cunda, Kunda, Kundah, and Kunti, worshipped by the Kundas or Kuntahs. These names all indicate that 'cunt' and its ancient equivalents were used as titles of respect rather than as insults (as does the Egyptian term, 'quefen-t', used by Ptah-Hotep when addressing a goddess). 'Kunti', the name of an Indian goddess, is also an Indonesian term used to describe a mythical female vampire, abbreviated from 'kuntilanak'.
My own surname, Hunt, also has associations with 'cunt'. I have lost count of the number of times I have been called Mike Hunt ('My Cunt') or Isaac Hunt ('I's a Cunt'). The Mike Hunt pun can be traced back as early as the nineteenth century: "The dance was followed up by an out-and-out song by Mike Hunt, whose name was called out in a way that must not be mentioned to ears polite" (FLG, 1841). Designers Morag Myerscough and Charlotte Rawlins turned 'Mike Hunt' into a neon sculpture titled Has Anyone Seen Mike Hunt? (2004), when they were asked to illustrate the letter 'c' for a British Library exhibition. Maev Kennedy reviewed the sculpture in an article headlined Library Show For Word Rhyming With Hunt: "C, after all, is almost unique in having its own word. The C-word. The hardest word of them all" (2004). Mike Hunt is also the name of an American publishing house. An Australian magazine feature on the c-word was subtitled An Article About Mike Hunt (Rhonda Pietin, 2001).
In Australian slang, Mike Hunt is extended to Michael Hunt, which explains why Michael is Aussie slang for 'cunt'. The phrase is found in the Australian drinking toast Mich Hunt's Health (1731):
"Here's a Health to Mich. Hunt,
And to Mich. Hunt's Breeches;
And why may not I scratch Mich. Hunt,
When Mich. Hunt itches".
'Hunt'/'cunt' comparisons are many and varied: I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue has been introduced as "the show that is to panel games what James Hunt is to rhyming slang!" (John Naismith, 1998); in Head On Comedy a joke was made about "William Hunt" (Pati Marr, 2000); the "rhyming slang potential" (Gareth McLean, 2001[a]) of 'Mr Hunt' has been commented upon. 'Colin Hunt' is another rhyming 'cunt' euphemism: "Colin Hunt, the perpetual office joker in The Fast Show, is evoked. That's all they are, really. A bunch of Colin Hunts" (Charlie Catchpole, 2001). Smut has a comic strip called Kevin Hunt, with the slogan "YOU GET THE GIST" (2001) implying the pun in the name. Stupid Hunts, a pun on 'stupid cunts', was used as a headline by Total Film magazine in 2006. Kirsty Allsopp demonstrates how easy a 'Hunt'/'cunt' slip-up can be: "I had to stand outside a house and say, "Welcome to The Great House Hunt!" [though instead] I said, "Welcome to The Great House C[unt]!" I was so embarrassed!" (Polly Hudson, 2003).
The Viking invader King Canute's name was originally spelt Cnut, an anagram of 'cunt' in the manner of French Connection's FCUK. FCUK and Cnut are both tabooed words with their respective middle letters reversed, the difference being that FCUK was a deliberate reference to 'fuck' whereas Cnut was an accidental reference to 'cunt'. This accidental reference may explain why Canute has now replaced Cnut, in an attempt to Anglicise and elongate the word and thus disguise its similarity to 'cunt'. French Connection initially insisted that the similarity between FCUK and 'fuck' was merely coincidental, though they soon dropped their false modesty by pressing charges against the rival Cnut Attitude clothing brand.
Cnut Attitude later rebranded itself as King Cnut, selling an extensive range of 'cnut'-themed clothing (as worn by characters in Monkey Dust, Chewin' The Fat, and The Baby Juice Express): 'CNUT' t-shirts in green and pink; 'CNUT' t-shirts with large, yellow text; 'cnut' t-shirts in black; 'cnut' t-shirts with two squares; 'CNUT' hoodies; 'Cnut' t-shirts imitating the Carlsberg and Coca-Cola logos; 'cnut' thongs; 'CNUT' t-shirts with images of ninja fighters, in red and yellow. Their other t-shirt slogans are: 'SAFFA CNUT', 'AUSSIE CNUT', 'BRAZILIAN CNUT', 'U R A CNUT', 'SPRINGBOK CNUT', 'STONED CNUT', 'CHARLIE NOVEMBER UNIFORM TANGO', 'BRITISH CNUT', 'ARMY CNUT', '24 CARAT CNUT', 'sexy cnut', 'sexy cnut' (in a cursive font), 'posh cnut', 'lazy cnut', 'ginger cnut', 'cheeky cnut', 'pissed cnut', '20th CENTURY CNUT' (imitating the 20th Century Fox logo), 'it's spelt fuck you stupid cnut', 'Your boyfriend is a cnut', 'king cnut', 'kiwi cnut', 'miserable cnut', 'tory cnut', 'labour cnut', 'fat cnut', 'run like a cnut', 'bald cnut', 'you cnut be serious?', 'pommie cnut', and 'thick cnut'. They also sell 'brazilian cnut' and 'hollywood cnut' thongs.
King Cnut, known as Cnut the Great, was one of several Danish Cnuts, including St Cnut. His name now prompts predictable double-entendres, such as this from Simon Carr: "John Prescott made King Canute gestures with his hands. Or, more accurately, King Cnut gestures (I'm glad I'm not dyslexic)" (2003). Two Private Eye cartoons have drawn upon the humorous potential of Cnut: one by McLachlan (2002) depicts a man in a French Connection t-shirt looking at a historical waxwork labelled "cnut", and another by Mike Barfield (2003) includes "CNUT" in a collection of offensive anagrams. It has also been used in a cartoon by Arthur Mathews for The Observer called The Chairman. A split-second reference occurred in an advertisement for Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, when the final frame read "C NUT" (2002). In Believe Nothing, Rik Mayall played a character called Adonis Cnut, leading another character to ask him: "may I call you A Cnut?" ('may I call you a cunt?'; Claire Hinson, 2002). A Daily Star feature on the programme somewhat missed the point with the headline You Cnut Be Serious, using Cnut as a pun on 'cannot'.
The euphemistic Spoonerism 'cunning stunts' ('stunning cunts') relies not on rhyme but on a reversal of the initial le
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