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Social taboos originally related to religion and ritual, and Philip Thody contrasts our contemporary bodily taboos with the ritual taboos of tribal cultures: "In our society, that of the industrialised West, the word 'taboo' has lost almost all its magical and religious associations" (1997).

What 'cunt' has in common with most other contemporary swear words is its connection to bodily functions.

Genital, scatological, and sexual terms (such as, respectively, 'cunt', 'shit', and 'fuck') are our most powerful taboos, though this was not always the case.

The clarifies the word's commonest contexts as the two-fold "female external genital organs" and "term of vulgar abuse" (RW Burchfield, 1972).

At the heart of this incongruity is our culture's negative attitude towards femininity.

contains the most detailed study of what he calls "The most heavily tabooed of all English words" (1989), though his article is only five pages long.

Cunt: A Cultural History Of The C-Word is therefore intended as the first comprehensive analysis of this ancient and powerful word.Censorship of both the word 'cunt' and the organ to which it refers is symptomatic of a general fear of - and disgust for - the vagina itself.The most literal manifestation of this fear is the myth of the 'vagina dentata', symbolising the male fear that the vagina is a tool of castration (the femme castratrice, a more specific manifestation of the Film Noir femme fatale).The c-word's second most significant influence is the Latin term 'cuneus', meaning 'wedge'.The Old Dutch 'kunte' provides the plosive final consonant.Establishment "prudery [...] in the sphere of sex", as documented by Peter Fryer (1963), continued until after the Victorian period, when sexually explicit language was prosecuted as obscene.It was not until the latter half of the 20th century, after the sensational acquittal of can be seen as something of a watershed for the word, marking the first widespread cultural dissemination of "arguably the most emotionally laden taboo term" (Ruth Wajnryb, 2004).The Cunt-Art movement used traditional 'feminine' arenas such as sewing and cheerleading as artistic contexts in which to relocate the word.A parallel 'cunt-power' ideology, seeking to reclaim the word more forcefully, was instigated by Germaine Greer - and later revived by Zoe Williams, who encouraged "Cunt Warriors" to reclaim the word (2006), the latest of the "various attempts over several hundred years of usage to "resignify" cunt to resume its original, feminine-anatomical status" (Jacqueline Z Wilson, 2008[b]).The word has since become increasingly prolific in the media, and its appearances can broadly be divided into two types: euphemism and repetition.Humorous, euphemistic references to 'cunt', punning on the word without actually using it in full, represent an attempt to undermine our taboo against it: by laughing at our inability to utter the word, we recognise the arcane nature of the taboo and begin to challenge it.

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