Why is the C-word so offensive

Some coworkers and I were joking around the other day by coming up with the worst possible name you could call a person (outside of racial slurs, and things like “lazy” or “dishonest”). It was universally agreed that c*nt was about as bad as it gets. Adding an adjective added a bit of flair, but the word itself seemed to be about the worst insult you could hurl at someone.

While we agreed on the level of offense we couldn’t figure out what was so bad about the term? Why and how did the word become so offensive? I understand from a feminist perspective that the use of the word as an insult may be offensive, but why is the word itself viewed as something nasty and insulting?

Any ideas or etymology anyone cares to share?

(I apologise for bringing the down of the tone of the board.)

Just my 2 cents. Not sure if there is an “official” answer.

The word istelf first is a vulgar word used to describe the genitals. Now when calling a female by this word you are not only objectifying her saying “you are simply a recepticle, nothing more” but you are doing it using the most vulgar word possible.

Why the male reciprocal is less insulting I don;t know. Perhaps more men feel comfortable as being a sex object (or more likely wish someone would see them thatway :slight_smile: )

As I wrote in another thread, I doubt you could find a logical explanation, because if there was one, it would equally apply to other languages. And the french equivalent of cunt, “con” (related word, same meaning) , is the most common and lamest insult in French (“My parents are cunts : they didn’t let me borrow the car”, “I’m really a cunt. I missed my appointment” “what do you expect? People are cunts”).

I’m not sure that follows. Different cultures may have different attitudes towards certain language that may be explained by examination of a word’s history in that culture.

If you look up the etymology for “cuneiform”, the wedge-shaped ancient writing of the Babylonians, the word is derived from the Latin root ‘cuneus’ meaning ‘wedge’. And the word ‘cunnus’ is the Latin word for the external female genitalia. So, much for that.

I would agree with jfortun that the word is probably the LEAST allowable word in conversation. (At least in the USA). And I’m not talking about the possible insulting aspects of the word. I’m thinking more of everyday speech, business writing and so on. As to why it is THE most offensive word, I have no idea.

Well, not really. The Latin form may be a cognate, but the word does not come to English from Latin. According to the OED:

No Latin origin at all (which is logical – most English words considered “crude” are Germanic in origin, not Latin.

It actually was a neutral (if crude) term meaning “female genitals” for most of its history. The first OED cite for “A term of vulgar abuse” comes from 1923. Most likely, it was used that way before that, but considering the earliest cite for the first meaning was from 1230 A.D. (and the cite – a street name – indicates the word was in common use before that), it’s relatively late in the word’s history.

As for why – some words just take on offensive meanings, sometimes with no logical reason (e.g., “occupy,” which was considered highly obscene in Shakespeare’s time). You can speculate, but there is often no definitive answer.

Here’s a link to the thread we did about “cunt” last year. Seems different societies have different views on what’s REALLY bad, and what’s just bad.

And here’s a link to the recently bumped thread in the Pit on the same subject…

Here…

[QUOTE=jfortun]
Some coworkers and I were joking around the other day by coming up with the worst possible name you could call a person (outside of racial slurs, and things like “lazy” or “dishonest”). It was universally agreed that c*nt was about as bad as it gets.
Never mind the “C word”, I object to the idea that it is even worse to call someone “lazy”. What’s wrong with being lazy? I’ve been lazy for all of my 66 years and I think it is a perfectly valid moral life-style choice. I’ve never been insulted when I have been called lazy.