You know what I’m talking about. It’s as commonly used on the British Isles as “gobsmacked” or “knackered” but here in the States it’s rarely used and only in extreme circumstances. I detonate F bombs all day long, but can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used the C Word. You’ve probably heard people say–usually men–that if a woman uses it to describe another woman, said woman must be one horrid she-beast.
I’m betting that the first time most of you heard a curse word, it came from your parent’s mouth (unless your parents are Amish) – probably at some unguarded moment when they didn’t see you behind them as they attempted to stop the washing machine from spin-cycling its way across the garage floor. My first curse word was presented to me at age 4 by my grandmother, who most likely had a cigarette in one hand and highball in the other as she let loose: Shit. I used this newly learned word while playing in the sandbox with my Barbie doll when she wouldn’t do what I wanted her to. Stupid Barbie. My reward for using this word–in proper context I might add–was a swat on the behind.
The C Word alluded my realm of awareness until the ripe age of 7.
My street was in a typical 1970’s suburban neighborhood. Back then, no one had any qualms about letting their children play unattended outside for hours, and mothers would only step outside to yell their kids in for dinner. We played together in various groupings, based on age or gender or who had a slip-n-slide. Left to our own devices, we roller skated, biked, drew chalk racetracks for our Hot Wheels, sailed leaf boats down rain-filled gutters, played baseball and climbed trees.
After a warm summer afternoon spent building shady forts for ladybugs and snails in the front yard of my best friend’s house, I began a leisurely stroll home. Halfway there, I encountered Eddie Bernardo. Eddie was the shortest kid in our first grade class and lived around the block from me. He was riding a bike standing on the pedals, probably because the hand-me-down bike from one of his three older brothers prevented his short legs from reaching the pedals while seated. He braked in the street a few feet behind me and yelled “Hey, Lori Cunt!” I found this odd for two reasons. First, we had never spoken before so it was the first time he’d ever said my name. Second, he got my last name wrong…it’s Hunt.
“That’s not my last name, dummy.” I said and continued walking.
“Yes it is, it’s Cunt!”
I picked up my pace and yelled over my shoulder “You don’t know anything!” Stupid boy.
I stewed over this encounter the rest of the way home and knew the word had some meaning other than it rhyming with my last name. Was it a bad word? It felt like a bad word. I pondered this as I entered my house, washed my hands (yes, Mom, with soap) and all through my favorite dinner of Sloppy Joes. Surely, an adult would know the meaning of this new word? I looked up at my parents. Who to ask? I waited for the dishes to be cleared and then posed the question to the parent unlucky enough to find themselves still seated at the table.
“Hey, um, Dad?”