Etymological Scholarship on C-Word

Michael Adams madams1448 at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 23 20:37:59 UTC 2007

 Thanks for pointing to Burford's books, Jonathon -- MED did not have any evidence of such a street in York, and if Burford has, it's quite important. Of course, the MED's C fascicles were published in the 1950s or early 60's, so material may well have surfaced since then.


 -----Original Message-----
 From: slang at ABECEDARY.NET
 Sent: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 3:34 PM
 Subject: Re: Etymological Scholarship on C-Word

  Michael Adams wrote:
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 > 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.
 While one's instincts may be to hesitate, as it were, at the portals of
 Gropecuntlane, it appears that such a name was popular in the various
 'stews' of the period,. Such streets, also hosting brothels, were to be
 found contemporaneously in both York and Oxford. For topographical,
 rather than etymological info. I recommend two books by E.J. Burford:
 _The Orrible Synne_ (1973) and _Bawds and Lodgings_ (1976) both of which
 deal with London's early 'red-light' areas. His research is rather more
 serious than his titles.


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