Chaucer’s Cunt 

Now that I have your attention, I regret to inform you that he didn’t have one. On several occasions recently, sometimes in conversations about censorship, I have heard people say that Chaucer used the word “cunt.” Indeed, Wikipedia says, “The word appears several times in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (c. 1390) in bawdy contexts, but it does not appear to be considered obscene at this point, since it is used openly.” Similarly, RationalWiki proclaims that “Chaucer used the word unblushingly in his Canterbury Tales.”
Oddly, these statements are followed by quotes from The Canterbury Tales that belie them, for the word that Chaucer uses is not “cunt,” but “queynte.” “Queint,” as a noun, literally means “a clever or curious device or ornament” (Middle English Dictionary) or an “elegant, pleasing thing” (Riverside Chaucer). When used to refer to a woman’s genitalia, it is both…
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