Messiah of skanky surfie folk?

butler.jpgI forgot to mention that we went to hear John Butler Trio on Friday night. Freeloading on the beach adjacent to the Casino Lawns, along with several thousand others. I had a great time; in fact it would have been almost perfect if “B” hadn’t locked her keys in the car at Mindil Beach, necessitating a long after-midnight trek into the city centre to get a taxi (avoiding the huge queues outside the Casino itself).

City Search NT described the Butler concert in the following unflattering terms:

The messiah of skanky surfie folk preaches to the converted on his Sunrise Over Sea tour.

From Kalgoorlie to Coolangatha, everyone seems to love John Butler. Whether his brand of feral folk is your cup of tea or not, it’s impossible to deny that his band’s astonishing success is heartening stuff for the Australian music industry. Butler’s latest album, Sunrise Over Sea, debuted at the top spot on the ARIA albums chart earlier this year – a rare feat for an Australian act, much less an independently distributed one – proving that there is a way around the major-label impasse.

Sunrise Over Sea is more of what we’ve come to expect from this dreadlocked balladeer. The guitar solos are epic, the lyrics impossibly sincere, and the sound a loose mix of blues, funk and folk, all bound together with lashings of Eastern mysticism – think Ben Harper meets a Byron Bay busker. As far as musical prophets go, Butler is far from convincing – but so far nobody seems to have noticed. BYO hemp products.

I see what the reviewer means about JBT. I was a touch disappointed myself that they weren’t a bit harder-edged and bluesier. But “skanky” is a trifle harsh, I think. BTW, the “trio” label seems something of a misnomer. There were four of the buggers if you include Butler himself. The Online Slang Dictionary defines “skank” this way:

skank v 1. to dance to ska music. (“Look at that guy skank!”) Submitted by David LaBrie, VA, USA, 23-09-1997. -adj 1. a dirty or promiscuous female. (“Stay away from that skank.”) dance female promiscuous insults (list of)

Incidentally, the authoritative Northern Territory News carried a report over the weekend about a local Darwin magistrate who mused in court about the linguistic derivation of a certain central female anatomical feature. Mr Loadman SM opined that it was derived from the Latin cunare, meaning triangle, presumably referring to the shape of the pubic bush sans Brazilian wax job. However, as observant Troppo Armadillo readers already know courtesy of James Russell, Mr Loadman is probably in error. The aptly-named page Cunt: A Cultural History records:

The etymology of ‘cunt’ is actually considerably more complex and contentious than is generally supposed. 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. Furthermore, ‘cunt’ is not strictly a slang term; like other ‘four-letter words’, it was originally standard English and was deliberately marginalised in favour of polysyllabic (thus ‘respectable’) alternatives. Thus, ‘cunt’ was replaced with ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva’, ‘crap’ gave way to ‘excrement’, and ‘piss’ was surpassed by ‘urine’.

The prefix ‘cu’ is one of the oldest word-sounds in recorded language. It is an expression quintessentially associated with femininity, and is the basis of ‘cow’ (‘female animal’), ‘queen’ (‘female monarch’), and, of course, ‘cunt’ (‘female genital’). The word’s second most significant influence is the Latin term ‘cuneus’, meaning ‘wedge’, from which comes ‘cunnus’ (‘vagina’). The final ‘t’ of ‘cunt’ can be traced back to Scandinavia, as in the Old Dutch ‘kunte’.

In its second edition, the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), the foremost authority on English etymology, clarifies the word’s commonest contexts as the two-fold “female external genital organs” and “term of vulgar abuse”. At the heart of this incongruity is our culture’s negative attitude towards femininity. ‘Cunt’ is a primary example of the multitude of tabooed words and phrases relating to female sexuality, and of the misogyny inherent in sexual discourse.

Kate Millett sums up the word’s uniquely despised status: “Somehow every indignity the female suffers ultimately comes to be symbolized in a sexuality that is held to be her responsibility, her shame[.] It can be summarized in one four-letter word. And the word is not fuck, it’s cunt. Our self-contempt originates in this: in knowing we are cunt” (1973). Specifically, she identified this attitude in the novels of Henry Miller: “His interpretation […] is that woman is no more than “cunt,” though she is occasionally said to redeem herself by having babies” (1970).

When used in this reductive, abusive context, female genital terms such as ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ are notably more offensive than male equivalents such as ‘prick’ and ‘cock’. Joan Smith calls ‘cunt’ “the worst possible thing – much worse than [‘prick’] – one human being can say to another” (1998) and Simon Carr calls it “the worst thing you can say about anyone” (2001). As Deborah Cameron notes, “taboo words tend to refer to women’s bodies rather than men’s. Thus for example cunt is a more strongly tabooed word than prick, and has more tabooed synonyms” (1985). Jonathon Green concurs that “the slang terms for the vagina outstrip any rivals, and certainly those for the penis[.] They encompass what is generally acknowledged as the most injurious of monosyllabic epithets [and] that ultimate in four-letter words” (1993), by which, of course, he means ‘cunt’. …

The clearest method of structuring the complex etymology of ‘cunt’ is to approach it letter by letter. Its prefix, ‘cu’, is an expression of “quintessential femineity” (Eric Partridge, 1961), confirming ‘cunt’ as a truly feminine term. The synonymy between ‘cu’ and femininity was in place even before the development of written language: “in the unwritten prehistoric Indo-European […] languages ‘cu’ or ‘koo’ was a word base expressing ‘feminine’, ‘fecund’ and associated notions” (Tony Thorne, 1990). The proto-Indo-European ‘cu’ is also cognate with other feminine/vaginal terms, such as the Hebrew ‘cus’, the Arabic ‘cush’ and ‘kush’, the Nostratic ‘kuni’ (‘woman’), and the Irish ‘cuint’ (‘cunt’).

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’, ‘cooz’, ‘cooze’, ‘coozie’, ‘coozy’, ‘cookie’, ‘choochy’, ‘chocha’, ‘cootch’, and ‘coochie snorcher’ are extensions of them. ‘Coochie snorcher’, as in The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could from The Vagina Monologues, is a childish euphemism for ‘cunt’ that has generated the increasingly elaborate variants ‘hootchy-kootchy’, ‘ootchimagootchi’, and ‘ouchimagooga’. …

Thus, ‘cuneiform’, ‘coin’, and ‘cunt’ share the same etymological origin: ‘cuneus’. The connection between ‘cuneus’ and ‘cunt’ is ‘cunnus’ (Latin for ‘vagina’), and this connection is most clearly demonstrated by the term ‘cunnilingus’ (‘oral stimulation of the vagina’). In this combination of ‘cunnus’ and ‘lingere’ (‘to lick’), we can see that ‘cunnus’ is used in direct reference to the vagina, demonstrating that the ‘cun’ prefix it shares with ‘cunt’ is more than coincidental.

Believe it or not, that’s only the beginning. The site is an extraordinarily rich and diverse source of everything you’ve ever wanted to know about …

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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old gin
old gin
2021 years ago

James why did you have to bring all that back up again? Kate and co have done more to ‘repulsify’ a woman than all the mysogynists – including the nastiest kind of poofter – could ever do. It would be the true experience of most women that fat warm ‘cunt’ is appreciated to the point of adoration. Sadly though, as a radical feminist she was obliged to rant about the attitudes of men – unfortunately thereby propagating the bullshit about the nastiness of cunts even now so many years later.

murph
2021 years ago

Good musician. Just needs to keep his idiotic politics to himself.

murph
2021 years ago

Unlike, Gene Simmons, for instance, whose music sucks the big left one, but isn’t a lefty holier-than-thou twat.

Tony.T
2021 years ago

I wish you’d fed him to a crocodile.

That is all.