‘Nakedness,’ ‘feet,’ ‘secret parts’ – these and other terms are usually understood as euphemisms for genitals in the Bible. But in my research for ‘The Matriarch’s Muff’ I have found that the Bible is as rich in its earthy terminology for female genitals as it is for male ones (see ‘The Patriarch’s Nuts‘). Let me give one example. In Isaiah 3:17, the NRSV reads:

the Lord will afflict with scabs
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the Lord will lay bare their secret parts.

The key phrase is ‘lay bare their secret parts’ (pathen yĕʿāreh). The text actually reads that Yahweh will lay bare their ‘cunts’. Why? Pat is the term for socket, gulley or hollow. As fortune would have it, the Old English origins of ‘cunt’ – from Old Norse or Icelandic or perhaps Latin – also designate a gulley or cleft. That is, cunt was quite a common, ordinary word, which first appeared in 1230 CE, only to be rendered indecent in the nineteenth century. Indeed, as Emma Rees points out in The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, it was common to find medieval street names in England such as Gropecuntelane in London, Oxford and Bristol, or Clawecunt, Clevecunt, Cruskunt and Blunthercuntesaker. So I suggest we recover this ordinary sense of cunt, which we also find with pat. Isaiah 3:17 therefore reads, ‘and Yahweh lays bare their cunts’.

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