dirty words in dictionaries: semi-final thoughts

Jonathon Green slang at ABECEDARY.NET
Fri Jun 18 14:35:16 UTC 2004

On Fri, 18 Jun 2004 09:53:33 -0400, Grant Barrett
<gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Grant Barrett <gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG>
> Subject:      Re: dirty words in dictionaries: semi-final thoughts
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Jun 17, 2004, at 19:15, George Thompson wrote:
>>   If the two 18th C citations are in fact from manuscripts, and if
>> Wessely's dictionary was published in the early or mid 1880s, before
>> the 1888 source, which might be the case, it would be the earliest.
>> (Those naughty Anglo-Saxons were using it as early as ca. 1230.)  If
>> any of the lexicographers among us (Jesse & Jonathon particularly) are
>> inclined to use this citation, I would make an attempt to establish a
>> date of publication.
> The HDAS project would be happy to have it.
> Thanks,
> Grant

May I add my order too and offer my thanks in advance.

In re positive uses of cunt (defined in 1788 by Francis Grose - not a man
for whom PC would have bulked very large - as 'a nasty name for a nasty
thing'), the nearest citations I can find are both defined as 'an
attractive woman'.

1974 (context early 1960s) Price _The Wanderers_ 119: Joey’s girl was a
royal skank [...] but Eugene’s was a real cunt.
1997-2000 College Slang Research Project (Cal. State Poly. Uni., Pomona)
[Internet] Cunt {offensive} (noun) A very good looking female.

And I recall, but cannot properly cite, an Irvine Welsh line, I think it's
in _Trainspotting_, where a male in the throes of copulation says to his
partner, 'Oh, you sweet cunt' - but this may, while undoubtedly positive,
be merely anatomical.

The more general, and I would suggest neutral rather than positive use of
cunt to mean a man (once the reference is to a woman, it becomes - other
than in the cites above - negative), is reasonably long established in the
UK. I have examples from the 1960s onwards.

Jonathon Green

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