‘Most offensive word in the English language’ never actually used to be so taboo

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The most offensive word out there today never used to be taken so seriously, but the English language and people over the years have made it so.

You may know the word I’m talking about, but it turns out that there’s a lot of history behind it, and it’s been on a weird, twisted journey to get to where it is in the English language – there’s a lot behind it.

Which word is it?

We’ve all had and heard our fair share of F-bombs, Bs here and there, different words for the male genitalia and even a synonym for anus.

All fine and offensive words for situations, people who you may not like very much or things to shot when you’re annoyed – but one word stands head and shoulders above the rest.

It’s a blunt word, tough and harsh with hard sounds, with three consonants and a sharp stop.

The verbal equivalent of jabbing someone in the face, the word seems to have got progressively more offensive as time have gone on, though it was never meant to hold the power that it does in the 21st century.

A word with feminist roots, and originated in 2400-2500BC in Ancient Egypt of all places, the journey this four letter word has undertaken is one that more people should know about.

Origins

If you haven’t guessed it already, the word is c**t.

It’s origins come from the Ancient West and East, and was first found as ‘k**t’ in the writing of Ptah-Hotep, an Egyptian vizier from the 25th century BC, which referred to women as a term of respect.

We have to remember, thousands of years ago in the Stone Age, nobody had sexual partners and female sexuality was not problematic. But as nomadic societies stopped moving, women began to hold land for families, men wanted to have families and women had to be monogamous – society changed and patriarchy was introduced.

How it became the most offensive word in the world

A BBC survey from 2000 revealed that the word ranked at number one among all other words in the English language, above the usual swears and above certain racial slurs.

If we roll the clock back a few centuries again, the word was used in several old Norse and Germanic tales, also living on in English as it was still considered a mostly harmless term, though it started to become offensive in Medieval England.

In the 1400s, there were still 20 ‘Gropec**t Lanes’ in the country, though they were placed in Red Light districts.

Shakespeare managed to use wordplay to slip the word into plays such as Hamlet and Twelfth Night, when it became more unacceptable.

By the early 20th century, the English language moved away from religious profanity to more vulgar and sexual language – more what we hear today.

Why has it become so taboo recently?

Of course the word is bad, but the worst in the world? How did that happen?

Simply put, it’s because it’s blunt.

Linguistics have explained that other words for the female genitalia are usually Latinate, diminutive or euphemistic, while c**t is plain and, originally, Anglo-Saxon.

Many words that originate from that time have short vowels that come across as offensive, like s**t, p**s, f**k and c**k to name a few.

But the odd thing here is that works that mean the same thing but have more syllables and sound less blunt, are less offensive – think poopy, pee, screw and willy.

But there is one word which shares these same characteristics that is actually still quite offensive, t**t.

Where do we stand with it today?

Numerous feminists today argue that the stigma around the word should be removed, simply because it is a more accurate description of female genitalia than ‘vagina’.

Coming from Latin, vagina refers to a sword sheathe, meaning that it translates into being a holster for male genitalia.

The c-word actually describes the whole thing, every individual part of the female genitalia, and reclaiming the word means that women are taking the power of their sex, feminists have argued.

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