Spanish and French words for pussy

James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Thu Jun 24 17:17:39 UTC 1999

RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
> When I was studying French in college, I was told that LE CHAT and LA CHAT
> were quite different--but that LA CHAT was not a female cat. I was told to
> beware of saying LA CHAT. Was this a piece of knowledge that was equally
> wrong?

Since nobody with actual knowledge on this has chimed in (unless I somehow
missed it), I'll offer my impression.

My impression is that "la chatte" means a (female) pussy--in every sense--
and that, just as with the English word, in determining the sense context is
everything.  The 1903 Cassell's French-English dictionary I inherited from my
French professor father simply says "le chat, n.m., la chatte, n.f., cat,
darling, dear."  My 1993 Harper-Collins Robert (2nd ed.) suggests that the
feminine form may not generally be used in reference to actual cats:  It
identifies "le chat" as the generic term for cat (as well as a specific term
for tomcat), and identifies "la chatte" as the zoological term for "she-cat"
and "ma (petite) chatte" as an informal term for "my pet, my love" (cf.
English "pussycat").

Neither of these desk-size dictionaries alludes to a naughty meaning, but I
did once see a pornographic film in French (which I hereby declare to have
been for purposes of linguistic research), and emerged with the distinct
impression that "chatte" is also used in reference to female pudenda.  The
parallel (and interactive?) evolution of these terms in English and French
might make a nice study.

Now, would anyone care to tell me when the verb "baiser" means "kiss" and
when it means "fuck," and when or how it acquired the latter meaning?  My
impression is that the meaning depends upon whether the verb is used
transitively or intransitively and, if transitively, just what the object
is.  Seems like a word to be used only with great care, and I wonder if the
second meaning is of fairly recent vintage.  (No English parallel comes to
mind, though, so it may be too far off-topic to respond on-list.)

James E. Clapp

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