Thus, 'cu' and 'koo', both pronounced 'coo', were ancient monosyllabic sounds implying femininity. 'Coo' and 'cou' are modern slang terms for vagina, based on these ancient sounds. Other vaginal slang words, such as 'cooch', 'coot', 'cooter' (inspiring the headline in 2010), 'cooz', 'cooze', 'coozie', 'coozy', 'cookie', 'choochy', 'chocha', 'cootch', and 'coochie snorcher' are extensions of them. 'Coochie snorcher', as in from , is a childish euphemism for 'cunt' that has generated the following (often elaborate) variants:
The prefix has also been linked to elliptical (thus, perhaps, metaphorically vaginal) terms such as 'gud' (Indo-European, 'enclosure'), 'cucuteni' ('womb-shaped Roman vase'), 'cod' ('bag'), 'cubby-hole' ('snug place'), 'cove' ('concave chamber'), and 'keel' ('convex ridge'). The Italian 'guanto' ('glove') and the Irish 'cuan' ('harbour') may also be related, as they share with 'vagina' the literal meaning 'receptacle'. 'Quality', and even 'cudgel', have been suggested as further links, though a cudgel seems more like a cock than a cunt, and indeed none of these terms have the demonstrably feminine associations of 'cunt' or 'cow'.
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. 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). In , Sigmund Freud's classic two-fold definition of 'taboo' encompasses both the sacred and the profane, both religion and defilement: "The meaning of 'taboo', as we see it, diverges in two contrary directions. To us it means, on the one hand, 'sacred', 'consecrated', and on the other 'uncanny', 'dangerous', 'forbidden', 'unclean'" (1912).
“Maybe it involved the normalization of relations between Earth and Mars pertaining to an extraterrestrial defense posture that was then being established. Maybe it was something as basic as the fact that they knew that my discovery of life on Mars would inspire the next generation of Americans to become astronauts and space scientists.
In , a chapter from the anthology , Jonathan Wilson notes the word's etymological convolution: "The precise etymology of cunt, yet unresolved, continues to engender the most arcane and complex disputes" (2008). Greek Macedonian terms for 'woman' - 'guda', 'gune', and 'gyne' - have been suggested as the word's sources, as have the Anglo-Saxon 'cynd' and the Latin 'cutis' ('skin'), though these theories are not widely supported. Jay Griffiths (2006), for example, links 'cunt', 'germinate', 'genital', 'kindle', and 'kind' to the Old English 'ge-cynde' and Anglo-Saxon 'ge-cynd' (extended to 'ge-cynd-lim', meaning 'womb'); to this list, Peter Silverton adds 'generate', 'gonards', and 'genetics', derived from the Proto-Indo-European 'gen' or 'gon'.
Likewise, when a knight in Thomas Heywood's (16--) declares, in Latin, "Nobis ut carmine dicunt", he is described as "a beastly man" to highlight the embedded obscenity. 'Cunt' also appears surreptitiously in 'cuntur', the original Peruvian term for 'condor', and in the Latin terms 'producunt' and 'nascuntur'. Phonetically, it is contained within otherwise innocent words such as 'country', 'significant', 'contains' ("c*ntains strong language; Teresa Monachino, 2014), 'control' ("cunt-troll"; , 2011), 'insignificant' ("You insignificunt little fuck!"; Troy Duffy, 1999), 'replicant' (Sadie Plant's in , 1996), 'continuing' ("Stan says you're a cont-, you're a cont-, Stan says you're a cont-, cont-, cont-, you're a continuing source of inspiration"; Trey Parker, 2003), 'contaminated' ("Balzac is a writer; he lives with Allen Funt. Mrs Roberts didn't like him, but that's 'cos she's a... Contaminated water can really make you sick"; Trey Parker, 2000) and 'applicant' (Dominic Brigstocke, 2007):
'Grumble and grunt' is another Cockney rhyming slang phrase meaning 'cunt'. It has been abbreviated to 'grumble', though this abbreviation is frequently a reference to pornography, so-called because heterosexual porn includes images of vaginas ('grumble and grunts'). In this pornographic sense, 'grumble' has been extended to form 'grumbled' ('caught in the act of masturbation', a pun on 'rumbled'), 'grumblehound' ('constant seeker of porn'), 'grummer' ('porn magazines'), 'jumble grumble' and 'grumble sale' ('cheap pornography'), 'grumbleweed' ('weak from excessive masturbation'), 'grumbelows' ('sex shop'), 'grumbler' ('pornography vendor'), and 'grumbilical chord' ('connecting lead for porn TV channels', a pun on 'umbilical chord').
Newspaper headlines often use the phrase 'the c-word' to pun on other contentious terms beginning with that letter: "the phrase 'the c-word' is sometimes deliberately used to mean something else, while exploiting the intertextuality of the original meaning" (Ruth Wajnryb, 2004); for example 's headline (Andrea Hubert, 2013), in which Moretz compared the c-word in America and the UK: "cunt is a funny word. It's a strong word, sure, but more so in America. In England it's just like any other curse word". The most common example of this is 'Christmas', which, like 'cancer', can be seen as an alternative 'c-word'. The 2001 headline , for example, is about the removal of the word 'Christmas' from secular greetings cards. In the article, Richard Littlejohn asks, rhetorically: "Who, exactly, is offended by the C-word?". He has fun inventing phrases such as "Father C-word", "C-word Eve", and "C-word Day", all attempts to highlight the absurdity of banning the word 'Christmas'. Less festively, he also bemoans the culture of liberalism, 'political correctness', and 'istas' (in other words, his usual targets), asking: "How on earth do you describe these New Scrooges? Difficult, I know. But try the other C-word". As if that wasn't enough, Littlejohn went on to essentially repeat himself two Christmases later, in another article also headlined ("the dreaded C Word [...] Christmas", 2003). Catherine Bennett, in an article also headlined (in , 2003), also criticised the censorship of 'Christmas'. Tim Rider's article (2004) was also about the contentiousness of 'Christmas': "They do not want any mention of what they call the C-Word because they are worried it will offend followers of other faiths" (2004), as was the article (in , 2004) which urged readers to say 'Christmas' despite its controversy. Yet another article, headlined (2004) also concerned the festive season: "Ditch the dreams of a white Christmas", as did Jay Nordlinger's article ("people could not bring themselves to utter the C-word", 2003). used the headline on the front page of its 2013 Christmas gift issue (13/11/2013). After TV presenter Andrew Strauss called Kevin Pietersen a 'cunt', punned that he had been called "charming": "Kevin Pietersen was described live on air by Piers Morgan as "charming". Cricket experts were aghast at the "inappropriate use of the c-word"", in a spoof article headlined (2014).
The similarity of 'cony' to 'cunny' is echoed by the relationship between 'count' and 'cunt': "It is a likely speculation that the Norman French title 'Count' was abandoned in England in favour of the Germanic 'Earl' [...] precisely because of the uncomfortable phonetic proximity to cunt" (Geoffrey Hughes, 1991). Indeed, the title 'count' is rendered in Gaelic as 'cunta'. (The Gaelic 'cunta', with an acute accent over the 'u', means 'assistant.) Keith Briggs (2009) cites place-name suffixes such as Le Cunte derived from 'count'. As early as 1572 a direct and bawdy comparison between 'Earl' and 'Count' was made by Stephen Valenger:
By contrast, however, a more recent case was dismissed when it was ruled that the word 'cunt' did not constitute sexual harassment: the court concluded that the word, while being "one of the most derogatory terms for a woman", could also be regarded as complementary (Kevin Vaughan, 2004). A female student at Colorado University had alleged that another student called her a 'cunt'. Meanwhile, the University's President, Betsy Hoffman, citing Geoffrey Chaucer, defended the word as "a term of endearment" (John C Ensslin, 2004). Hoffman was ridiculed by the press, not least because the name of her university is commonly abbreviated to 'CU': "In CU President Betsy Hoffman's world [...] CU is halfway to CU**, which is just so CUte" (Mike Littwin, 2004; the article was headlined ).