Etymological Scholarship on C-Word

Michael Adams madams1448 at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 23 19:02:38 UTC 2007

 The "Gropecuntelane" evidence is from Eilert Ekwall's Street-Names of the City of London (Oxford, 1954). It's the only pre-14th-century evidence of the c-word, and it's slippery evidence: note that "grope" n, "lane," and "cunt" are all synonyms in one sense or another -- without context, it's impossible to determine whether the name recorded is an official name, a folk name, a joke, even. The 1230 evidence is used by some to suggest a continuous history from a hypothetical Old English etymon, but it's too thin a peg to hold that heavy hypothesis, and the c-word is really in the same situation as the f-word -- most Germanic languages include cognates, and one would like to assume an Old English reflex among them, but one can't. In the c-word's case, early Middle English borrowing from Danish (Danish "kunte" being more likely the source of the London street name element than Old Norse kunta) can't be ruled out.


 -----Original Message-----
 From: wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
 Sent: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 1:59 PM
 Subject: Re: Etymological Scholarship on C-Word

  HDAS includes the term.

  Is it OED that cites "Gropecuntelane" as a street name in Medieval England ?

  Beware of the speculations in Partridge's _Origins_.


Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Fred Shapiro
Subject: Etymological Scholarship on C-Word

I am posting on behalf of Pat O'Conner, author of _Woe Is I_. She is
interested in finding out about books or articles or other scholarship, by
linguists or etymologists or scholars of Sanskrit or Hinduism,
about the etymology of _cunt_. She is familiar with the OED entry and
with P. H. Reaney's _The Origin of English Surnames_, which mentions some
old surnames incorporating _cunt_ or _cunte_.

If people respond to the list or to me privately, I will make sure to pass
on the information to Pat.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS
Access and Lecturer in Legal Research Yale University Press
Yale Law School ISBN 0300107986
e-mail: fred.shapiro at

The American Dialect Society -

Now that's room service! Choose from over 150,000 hotels
in 45,000 destinations on Yahoo! Travel to find your fit.

The American Dialect Society -

AOL now offers free email to everyone.  Find out more about what's free from AOL at

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list