Post by occam Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by occam Post by Dingbat
The interesting thing about those three columns of words is that there
are hardly any swear words as we understand them today e.g. sexual or
scatological in origin. No cunt, fuck, shit or penis in sight.
Worth making a note.
Shak. was a bit more subtle than that -- and he knew what would happen
if he allowed certain words to be uttered in public. But have you
forgotten Hamlet's "these be country matters" while lying in Ophelia's
lap? Or Malvolio, who ostensibly commenting on a lady's handwriting
says "By my life, this is my lady's hand these be her very C's, her U's and
her T's and thus makes she her great P's"?
(One commentator claims that the Elizabethan obscenity was "cut.")
Here is a TED Talk delivered at the University of Glasgow.
"An honest history of an ancient and 'nasty' word". It discusses the
At around 3:10 into the video, the speaker also proposes 'cut' as the
(English ) precursor to cunt.
I'm glad I remembered your throw-away comment in parentheses.
I expect it's not going to be featured on NPR's "TED Radio Hour"
Unfortunately she's a sex historian, not a linguist, so after staying
with her until the Early Modern period, I had to go back to the
beginning to try to find why she had both "Germanic" and "Proto-
Germanic" on the relevant slide. There's no explanation, and no
suggestion of why the PGmc -n- may have disappeared in German(?)
or other Gmc languages other than English and the North Germanic
languages. So it doesn't help with the claim about the Malvolio
speech (which omits N), nor do any of her pre-Shak. examples.
It still seems to show that he couldn't say "cunt" on the stage and
keep his license. (She mentions that some actor recently said to
Ophelia "these be count ... ... ry matters." Must've infuriated the
She claims there's a cunning/cunt pun in Sonnet 20 (that's the
one that "proves" he was gay) but I don't find it:
A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.