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June 19, 2004

That OTHER Other Four-Letter Word - Cunt

What the hell was she thinking? University of Colorado President Betsy Hoffman blew it when testifying in a deposition about the federal lawsuit filed by three women who alleged they were sexually assaulted by CU football players and recruits in December 2001. CU place-kicker Katie Hnida said that the guys on the team referred to her as a "cunt." While Hoffman told the lawyer who questioned her that the word is derogatory, she went on to say that in some contexts it could be used as a term of endearment.

Yeah, you read that right. "Cunt" can be a term of endearment like... what? Honey Pot? Bearded Clam? Lady's Purse? Can it be akin to the way they use the word "hon" in Baltimore? Like, "Would you like to order dessert, Cunt?" Right. Sure it is.

Guess what Hoffman's explanation for such a bone-headed statement was? She was thinking back to the 14th century poet, Chauser. She later said she should have said to read Chauser's "The Miller's Tale."

For God's sake, lady, get your head out of that ivory tower and come down to earth sometime!

I haven't read "The Miller's Tale," but Amanda at Mouse Words has. She doesn't remember "cunt" being such a "sweet little nothing in that story," but she said she might be off on that. Can you imagine, as she did, these football players sitting around "reading "The Miller's Tale" and then one of them said, 'Hey, I didn't know that 'cunt' was a term of endearment! Wouldn't that be a perfect nickname for our new female teammate? I'm sure she'll love it!' "

Gimme a break.

Posted on June 19, 2004 at 09:06 AM | Permalink


Did anyone check to see if Betsy Hoffman has an adams apple?

Posted by: Blondesense at Jun 19, 2004 10:38:56 AM

I called my dreaded sister in law this to my brother and he actually TOLD her I called her this. Moron. LOL She IS one, too. ;)

Posted by: Moi ;) at Jun 19, 2004 7:27:15 PM

It's been a long time since I've read "The Miller's Tale", so I can't say one way or the other. Nonetheless, the meaning of the word in Chaucer's time is rather irrelevant to its usage today, as you point out. No one uses it as a term of endearment in modern parlance, a fact I'm quite positive of which Ms. Hoffman is actually aware.

Posted by: Lesley at Jun 19, 2004 8:23:00 PM

Actually, oddly enough, it _can_ be a term of endearment, when used by a male to refer to another male in Britain (and probably in Australia, NZ, and other countries).

It's still an insult, but it's one of those insults that you can use on a friend when you're male-bonding (e.g., 'That was brilliant, mate, you crazy cunt, ye!'). On the other hand, if you really hate Mr. Smith the headmaster, you might say 'That Mr. Smith is a right ould cunt, so he is'.

So a 'cunt' usually means a man, not a woman, although of course there are plenty of humiliating insults for women as well.

Not that this is anything to do with this discussion (Ms Hoffman, etc.); I wondered if you knew and might find it interesting.

Posted by: Sigmund Bjornstein at Jun 19, 2004 10:55:30 PM

Oh, I just remembered this brilliant comment that Garth Ennis (the writer) wrote in the lettercol of one of his comic books. Keep in mind, this was back in early 2001, well before Iraq and everything else.

He's sort of making fun of how his scripts will be censored from now on (they weren't going to, it was a joke), right? So he writes:

'... curse words will have to be replaced by appropriate substitutes, so when we mean 'fuck' we will write 'fudge' instead, when we mean 'shite' we will write 'cheese', and when we mean 'cunt' we shall say 'George W. Bush'...

A better example I can't think of.

Posted by: Sigmund Bjornstein at Jun 19, 2004 11:08:54 PM

Words change their meaning a lot. Girl use to mean child of either sex and it required a prefix to determine which gender was meant (Knave and wif I believe) for that matter, knave didn't mean thief either. Aweful and terrible were also not negative words; I doubt if the players would find themselves amused if the were called knave-girls and played a terrible awful game; no matter what the words meant in the past.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jun 20, 2004 2:53:53 AM

Doing a google of "Cunt Endearment" results in a lot hits on the story from just about all corners of the blogosphere. I don't think I've seen such agreement from left and right before...

Posted by: Dirtydingus at Jun 20, 2004 8:28:48 AM

That's interesting, Sigmund. Come to think of it, I have heard "cunt" used by men to describe other men, and it wasn't used in a nice way. I'm reminded of the movie "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," when one of the gay male characters said to the other two guys, "Okay girls, off your snatches."... telling them they had to get a move-on. It's not quite the same, and it wasn't nasty, but it just reminded me of the "cunt" discussion.

I love the "George W. Bush" reference. LOL good one.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jun 20, 2004 9:37:14 AM

Dingus, it just goes to show that you can find ANYTHING with a Google search. I even found a page with extra words related to "cunt" from different eras and countries, such as cunt curtain (public hair), cunt lapper (guess - those laps are not around a pool.), cunt tickler (moustache), cunt teaser, and one I have never heard before - cunt starver (Australian for man who defaults on maintenance payments). Some I found more offensive than others, such as "cunt wagon" (a flashy car specifically to attract impressionable women).

Words do change in meaning, Rachel, but "cunt" seems to universally refer to the same thing, even with the modifiers, and it is invariably not pleasant.

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jun 20, 2004 9:51:39 AM

I haven't explored the history of the word, though I might make a game of it later,
but my point really was the guys in this case knew exactly what they w
were saying and meant to hurt.

(Great, I'm looking up Cunt word history on the computer. My dh's
computer. his baby.
Bad rachel ann, bad girl.

Actually it is pretty intersting what i pulled up.
Here's the url if anyone wants, on the history and etymology

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jun 20, 2004 12:10:32 PM

Rachel Ann, imagine all the fun porn spam he's going to get. Yippee kai yay!!

Posted by: Trish Wilson at Jun 20, 2004 5:29:48 PM

I know. I thought of that after I went looking. Luckily it is on my profile, so I think I will end up being the lucky one.

It did make interesting reading though---but then I'm fascinated by the origins and connections between words.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at Jun 21, 2004 12:02:53 AM