Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 5555
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Barrett , Jeanelle.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Sticks and Stones: The Conflict Between Language and Sexism in Chaucer's Humor
  • Source: Gender and Conflict in the Middle Ages. Gender and Medieval Studies Conference, York, January 5-7 2001.. 2001. Conference website.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Chaucer, Geoffrey, Poet Humor, Bawdy Language Middle English Language Queynte (Middle English: Cunt, Slang for Vagina) Sexuality
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: The conflict between sexism and humor in language has illumined our attitudes about certain "offensive" terms and informs how society--even scholars--perceive sexist and sexual terms and their (arguably) concomitant humor. Sexism and language have been the subject of significant study in humor circles, creating gender conflicts that can arise at any level, from the "acceptable" translations of Chaucer for college and high school use to the underlying ribaldry and sexual innuendo in Chaucer's original texts. With regard to Chaucer's "sexual punning," possibly the most repugnant word in the English language, at least to women, is the "c" word, or the "q" word in medieval texts. "Queynte," as it appeared in many Chaucerian texts, was a useful pun for Chaucer and has also been the subject of much discourse in humor studies. While Chaucer appears to have had no trouble using such language for his own humorous ends or for his own subtle discourse about gender, many editors and translators have found it necessary to euphemize "queynte," and to call it "a pleasing thing," or to rely on the Latinate "pudendum" for various definitions, translations, and textbook glosses. Even the editors of the "Oxford English Dictionary" have been reluctant to deal with the word without euphemism. This paper examines the use of the word "queynte" from a linguistic and humorous standpoint, looking at Chaucer's punning and euphemistic language as it conflicts with translations and re-interpretations by editors. [Reproduced by permission of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference organizers].
  • Author's Affiliation: Tarleton State University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2001.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: Not Available
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: