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Reflecting different national usages, cunt is described as "an unpleasant or stupid person" in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, whereas Merriam-Webster states that it is a "usually disparaging and obscene" term for a woman In Britain, New Zealand, and Australia, it can also be used as a neutral or, when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.), positive way of referring to a person.The earliest known use of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was as part of a placename of a London street, Gropecunt Lane, c. Use of the word as a term of abuse is relatively recent, dating from the late nineteenth century., which explains that it’s Word’s Auto Complete feature, and cannot be turned off. As it turns out, there actually is a way to turn this off in Word 2007, the statement to the contrary in that article notwithstanding.

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Although Shakespeare does not use the word explicitly (or with derogatory meaning) in his plays, he still uses wordplay to sneak it in obliquely.

This ambiguity was still being exploited by the 17th century; Andrew Marvell's ...

then worms shall try / That long preserved virginity, / And your quaint honour turn to dust, / And into ashes all my lust in To His Coy Mistress depends on a pun on these two senses of "quaint".

Similarly John Donne alludes to the obscene meaning of the word without being explicit in his poem The Good-Morrow, referring to sucking on "country pleasures." The 1675 Restoration comedy The Country Wife also features such word play, even in its title.

By the 17th century a softer form of the word, "cunny", came into use.

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