or CUCKOLD: A LINGUISTIC ASYMMETRY, by Holly Rennick
plus CUCKOLD: IF THE MILKMAN DELIVERS AT 9:30, WHY MAKE YOUR BED TWICE? by Cindi Barton
This literary contribution may seem a bit like ping-pong if our co-authorship is new to you. Actually, this is our fourth publication. Visit Holly's ASSTR website for "Notebook", "Top Tips" and "Oneida" to get a sense of our literary partnership.
We offer our insights not as a final analysis, but merely as a point of embarkation for further multi-disciplinary exploration of cuckoldry.
[Hey, Cindi Barton, it's I, Holly Rennick here. How does it sound so far?]
[Why are you using my last name, Holly? Like I can't see who you are? And why are we talking in brackets?]
[It's how they know who's talking, Cindi, like sports commentators doing pre-game inanities. "Hey, Mike Ditka. I'd say that the Cowboy offense is going to have to move the ball if Dallas is going to win this showdown." "I'd simply add, John Madden, that the Bronco's big front line is hoping to stop them!" See how they do it? Plus, over-identifying each other helps our name recognition.]
[We're just schoolteachers, Holly Rennick. Start typing.]
[OK. Let's start with the dictionary.]
AN EXCELLENT START
A cuckold (as a noun) is the husband of an unfaithful wife. To cuckold (as a transitive verb) is to make a cuckold of. (If you're picky: imp. & p. p. "cuckolded"; p. pr. & vb. n. "cuckolding", as you would conjugate "fold", not "hold".)
[And now Cindi, we grab their attention with a heavy-duty quotation. I was just reading Shakespeare's Coriolanus after dinner and came upon this. Act IV, Scene 5, line 179, if I remember correctly.]
"As war, in some sort, may be said to be a ravisher, so it cannot be denied but peace is a great maker of cuckolds."
["Coriolanus", Holly? Shakespeare wrote some clunkers too? Rape the guy's wife in war, but seduce her in peacetime? We just deal with the problems of peace, then, OK?]
[That was just to get their attention and use the word "cuckold", Cindi. Now we get a little schoolmarmish.]
CUCKOLD IN AMERICAN HERITAGE
We thank "American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" for the following etymology,
[Hey, Holly? Cindi Barton here again. Is this about insects?]
["E T Y", not "E N T O", Cindi. It means, "Word history".]
"The allusion to the cuckoo on which the word cuckold is based may not be appreciated by those unfamiliar with the nesting habits of certain varieties of this bird. The female of some Old World cuckoos lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving them to be cared for by the resident nesters. This parasitic tendency has given the female bird a figurative reputation for unfaithfulness as well. Hence in Old French we find the word 'cucuault'... used to designate a husband whose wife has wandered afield like the female cuckoo... Middle English 'cokewold'... is first recorded in a work written around 1250."
[That's really old, when they invented cockholding, Holly. So we're writing an essay about it?]
[There's no "cock" in it, Cindi, and there's no "h". I have a degree in Secondary Education/Language Arts, you recall.]
[Oh, I thought its entomology maybe related them together. "Cock" and "hold", like a compound word. You know, like, "I manhandled him."]
[Sorry Cindi. The word's from a bird, is all. Just let me handle this, OK?]
Shakespeare utilized the term "cuckold" on 43 occasions.
As a noun -- "Now sir, who's a cuckold now?"
As an adjective -- "I mean not cuckold-mad; but, sure, he is stark mad."
As a transitive verb -- "The conclusion shall be crowned with your enjoying her: adieu. You shall have her, Master Brook; Master Brook, you shall cuckold Ford."
As an expletive -- "Fie, fie, fie! Cuckold, cuckold, cuckold!"
[Hey, Holly? Holly Rennick, I mean. In "Shakespeare in Love" they did it under a blanket. Remember?]
[The old play-within-a-play technique, we call it in creative writing, Cindi Barton.]
[But you realize, Holly Rennick, don't you, that not everybody turns to Shakespeare? In Spanish, it's more interesting.]
"Cabron", what Spanish 101 says is a "billy-goat", means a man who allows another man to have sex with his woman and doesn't do anything about it.
[Muy interesante, Señorita Cindi. Now here's my thesis. Just read while I type and don't interrupt.]
We have any number of gender-neutral adjectives for perpetuators of infidelity: "adulterous", "cheating", "unfaithful" and so on. For the unfortunate spouse we have "betrayed", "cheated-upon", again appropriate to husband or wife. But, apart from symmetric suffixes, e.g. "adulterer" and "adulteress", we have but one word, "cuckold" that is gender specific. If you've been cuckold, you're a guy and your wife's been in bed with somebody else. Shakespeare ordered it correctly in Henry the Eighth -- "He or she, cuckold or cuckold-maker."
The Inuit have a word for every sort of caribou bone. We couldn't care less about elk species. But how many words do they have related to a computer? Language meets needs, that is to say. So why would we have a specific term for the fellow whose wife has carnal acquaintance with another?
Why, that is say, is the term "cuckold" asymmetric? Why doesn't the unfortunate wife of an unfaithful male titled in like manner? This is our question.
Because males secretly want it to happen to them? "Oh, Hi, Ralph. Glad you could stop by this evening. I've got a big job, so I'm going back to the office for a few hours. Maybe you and Helen can watch a little TV, or something. Hun, you can stay in your nightie. It's just Ralph." Statistics say that suspicious husbands are justified only half the time. Is there some psychological principle about seeing what they want to see?
Because women want to classify men according to their own independence? Perhaps. Being cuckold speaks of having a female spouse who's chosen to venture beyond the "and obey" bit. Let's burn them bras, babes!
Because a wife having a secret lover so often works out? My best guess. Maybe a social scientist would see cuckoldry as structurally stabilizing, that sort of gobbledygook. The activity's named it because it works. A cuckold spouse can still sell Toyotas, bowl, watch the NFL, etc. while his wife enjoys her orgasm. If she came when she should have been at the PTA meeting, she can still fake one back home.
[Now what, Cindi?]
[Is this some big thing to Gloria Steinem or Hillary Clinton or somebody? That we don't get a special word on our side? "Cuckild", I'm thinking. Monica cuckilded Hillary.]
[It's about power, I think Good Housekeeping said. Noam Chomsky says that through linguistics we figure complicated stuff out.]
[Like globalization, or whatever he was lecturing about on the college station? Just 'cause he's smart doesn't mean he knows everything. I'll bet his real name is "Norm", you think?]
[It's all related, "cuckold" and "globalization" from the linguistic paradigm. Hold on, sister, I just have a little more to conclude.]
So then, armed with my deconstruction of "cuckold", consider these questions.
Guys. Given that, say, one out of five of you are going to be cuckolded, wouldn't you rather it be by a guy she's not going to move in with? Wouldn't you rather she chose a lover who'll treat her well? Well, if you want her to get beat up, you deserve to be a cuckold!
Gals. Some of you've done it. Some of you are doing it. Some of you will. We're probably talking about pretty great sex, right? Wouldn't you rather it be with somebody who understands you? Someone who'll always be around?
Both of you. If something happens with the birth control, you'd want a baby who genetically fits within the family.
So there we are. It happens. We've named it. We own it.
[That's my bit. So what do you think, Cindi? How I contextualized it?]
[I like that bit about genetics, her being with somebody she's known a long time. Can I write something now, since you promised I could? The readers may need some practical tips.]
[Sure, though it's often counterproductive to reword a well-developed thesis. Go ahead.]
A FEW TIPS
So here's an idea for Army wives. Your hubby's off for six months searching for weapons of mass destruction. He comes home and six months later you have a baby. What you say is that the nurse said he's really a big strapping kid for being a preemie. Or you can say that she said that these ones that are longer term often turn out to be good football players. In science, you see, I teach that gestation (that's what we call it) is not an exact length. It depends.
Or a tip about when you go to the NEA Convention and your husband phones you at 2:00 AM and this Assistant Principal you met answers the phone. You say loudly, "Oh, thank you officer for responding so promptly. I thought 911 was how I set my phone to do a wake-up call."
Or maybe your spouse finds your pills and he's had the big V already. You say they're not what they're labeled; that's just to expedite them through customs. They're just meth.'
Or maybe your kid looks pretty much like the milkman. Your husband maybe wonders. Remind him that the termite exterminator guy is the milkman's brother, so he's probably wrong. Don't tell hubby about ordering "extra fresh cream".
Or husbands. Be suspicious if your wife goes to tennis lessons twice a week and always comes back showered and invigorated. Be very suspicious if she takes a squash racket.
And guys. So your wife Sylvia had this bridge game last night with her girlfriends. Today Sally makes a big point to you about having chatted with Sylvia. Nancy mentions how she and Sylvia had some good hands. Ruth remarks about how nice Sylvia looked. Marianne laughs about how she and Sylvia messed up a bid.
[What you think, Holly? I need to tell the husband how many players sit at a bridge table?]
[Probably, Cindi. But we can't just be Agatha Christie. So I got some data.]
CUCKOLD BY THE NUMBERS
Two German scientists wanted to know if hair color is hereditary determined. In three schools they took some blood of 300 children and examined the DNA. They also took blood from the children's parents. The outcome of the examination shook the scientists. For more than ten percent of the children, the nominal father was not the biological father.
[Urban legend, Holly! Like the Germans wonder if hair color is hereditary? Let's just say that some dads may not have the full history. Go on.]
Reading USA Today, December 21, 1998 for my research, 24 percent of married men and 14 percent of women have been unfaithful, 28 and 17 by another survey, and 60 and 40 in what looks to be a less-scientific opinion. But always are there fewer promiscuous wives than promiscuous husbands. There are fewer betrayed men than women. So why does this minority get its own adjective?
[Hey Holly, you never took statistics, right?]
[Education majors have our special course. We have to do grade books and things. Plus, commentators like to report statistics. "Never before in 14 consecutive plays have the Cowboys run for 33 and passed for 13!" So what did you find out?]
[In science we call it our literature review. I Googled to "cuckold" and got total crap! A forum on watching your wife getting impregnated by a Mexican, for goodness sakes! It's racist and how'd you know that she was actually impregnated? It takes several weeks to be sure. Anyway, it's empty fantasy for lonely voyeurs. Those pallid writers haven't a clue what it's about.]
["Pallid? How'd you know that word?]
['Cause science majors still read, Holly. Bet you never dissect frogs when you don't have a date.]
[Ugh! Well, I think maybe Steve, our new Phys Ed guy, might ask me out. So there!]
[You'd like those books about the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Really good! Steve's a gay as a tulip, in case you missed his short beard. Anyway, I found some other stuff. Put this in our essay.]
Excerpt from Penthouse, August, 1997: "The most common letter we get is from husbands, describing how much they love watching their wives have sex with other men. We know right away we've received one of these letters too, because for all the hot-tub humping, steamy bar scenes and backseat blowjobs they involve, they all seem to start out with those three little words -- 'My beautiful wife'."
[Reminds me, Cindi, of how all your date reports start with, "I really hadn't planned on anything, but..." Anyway so what were you discovering about "cuckold"?]
[Nothing, really. Actually, I was thinking about writing a little story. Can you do that in an essay?]
[It's frowned upon in the better journals. You'd just ramble and lose the reader, but maybe you could say it and I'll write it down. One of my readers said that I'm "laconic".]
[Is that good?]
[You forgot to add, "Holly Rennick. Is that good, Holly Rennick." Well, he's a very nice fellow, so I'm sure he intended it to be. Just scoot over so I can use the keyboard, honey. You just dictate and I'll edit while I type.]
A CUCKOLD'S TALE
When Gary and Sondra first had sex, long after they'd started going out, she'd seemed so innocent. In the scope of what most college students did, they were squeaky clean until they couldn't wait any longer. She'd seemed to know what to do, but then they'd made out enough that she'd already made him shoot on her skirt, and, best as he could tell, maybe came a little when he rubbed her. (She'd not come close, she clarified long after; it was damn uncomfortable, him rooting around. They'd laughed.). Many girls break their hymens riding horses, he'd read. He was going to wear a condom, but she said she was already on the pill to make her periods lighter. The bloody bed sheet was an old wives' tale, he'd figured. In retrospect, he could have been more in tune when his betrothed suggested a better brand of condoms.
[So, is this what you said so far, Cindi? Maybe a little more cuddly-wuddly to help us identify with the characters?]
[Geesh! What I thought I said was that this guy was goo-goo over a broad who fooled him up front. I'll bet that most guys who get cuckolded have their eyes halfway closed. So let me keep going.]
For all these years they'd made sweet love. "Sweet" was the term Gary thought, not perhaps as a female might relate the term to something with daisies or childhood dolls, but more in a sense of union. Some weeks maybe they'd enjoy but a single copulation, but then some weekends they'd stay in bed all morning, him mounting her as often as she could make him ready. Gary had friends that casually talked about "fucking" a wife or girlfriend, but he never talked that way.
[So what do you think, Holly? Her sleeping around's got to be secret? If she's doing a guy her husband knows about, like her relative where the husband knows about a family tradition, the husband isn't really a cuckold.]
[Whatever, Cindi, but this guy's clueless. Let's keep going.]
Sondra worked closely with Paul.
[Hold it, Cindi. You've made with whom too obvious. Readers like some tension.]
Sondra worked with Paul, John, George, Mick, Keith, Elton and many, many others. She worked very closely with Paul.
[Just go on, Cindi. Maybe I can insert some filler later. Shouldn't we drop Elton, though?]
Once Gary had come home early and Paul's car was parked down the street. Gary had gone back to the office, mentioning nothing to his wife.
[Hey, Holly, let me stop here a second. There's this great one about this guy who drives cement truck and he sees this new Corvette parked in his driveway and guesses why and... ]
[I got it on the Internet too. It's an urban legend.]
[Who, us spread an urban legend, Holly? Here's one from Holland, but about Italy. How come urban legends are always about someplace else?]
A couple from Milan (he 35, she 30) went to a gynecologist while on vacation in Toscane, an Italian province. The woman had abdominal pains. After a brief physical, the doctor told the husband that the problem was not serious. "But next time, be careful." The pain was caused by a condom left in her vagina. The gynecologist removed the condom and the pain disappeared immediately. Too bad the husband couldn't remember ever having used a condom in his life.
[Get it? It's about him being cuckolded -- right, Holly?]
[Right. Keep dictating your story, girl.]