Saturday, July 16, 2005
Taboo Words - Before and after The Vagina Monologues
"The Supreme Court of the United States upheld this act of censorship in 438 U.S. 726 (1978). The words occurring in Carlin's monologue were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. Carlin's routine using these words has since been broadcast, however. In the early 1960s, Lenny Bruce had been taken to court for using some of these same words in his own comedy routines." (Souce: Wikipedia)
That was then. We have come a long way since the justices of the Supreme Court ruled on this issue. Their ruling has not been able to prevent the widening use of profanity in the media. Let's face it--the Genie cannot be put back into the bottle.
Eve Ensler deserves credit for the stage production of The Vagina Monologues. Her approach to the word "cunt" (described by some as the worst of them all) was bold, novel, and amusing.
One can spend days reading about the so called "taboo" words without learning exactly when they were declared unsuitable; why they were classified as vulgar and who decided on doing so.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) used the word frequently albeit with a different spelling, "queint" or "quaint". This is what I found in "The Street Names of England" by Adrian Room:
"York's Grape Lane was thus Grapecuntlane in the 14th century, while a hundred years earlier the City of London had its Gropecontelane and Oxford its Gropecuntelane. The 'four-letter word' that lies at the heart of the name is given its earliest citation by the Oxford English Dictionary (which admitted it to its pages only in 1972) from its occurrence in the Oxford street name, which dates from about 1230."
There is no good reason why vagina is acceptable but cunt is not. Ditto for penis and cock. Can you imagine a man or woman telling a friend "last night I had a great intercourse"? It just does not sound right. At one time all of them were in use in England and there was no stigma attached to them. Somewhere between the 12th and 16th centuries, influence of Puritans began to manifest itself. Probably some gray beards got together and classified certain words about body parts and/or with sexual connotations as vulgar, not suitable for use by the gentry. They went looking for dirt and found it; it was in their minds.
British author Peter Fryer's "Mrs Grundy: Studies In English Prudery " contains an anecdote. To the best of my recollection, it went something like this.
- A young woman from a wealthy family went horseback riding. On her return to the stable, the groom came forward to take charge of the horse. While dismounting, the young lady lost her footing and fell on her back. Her skirt flew up. She quickly got up and settled her attire. She was flustered and said "John, did you see my agility?". The groom replied, "Yes maa'm but in the kitchen we call it cunt."
The following verse by the late Ogden Nash is a bit outdated but still fun to read. When I came across it I thought the Republican hypocrites were at it in the thirties and still carrying on blathering about our morals in 2005!
"Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverent occiput.
Smite. Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l--ns,
Smite h-p and th-gh,
We'll all be Kansas
By and By."
-- Ogden Nash, "Invocation," 1931
To learn more, check out "Cunt: a Cultural History", an admirable discourse by Ashseti (pharoahashseti).
Oh, by the way, Do you know the difference between the man on the flying trapeze and the lady that gets shot from a cannon?.....Well, one is a very cunning stunt......:)