How an ancient word about a bird became a slur used by white supremacists

The World

This has been an election season of words: “bigly” (or is it “big league?”) “basket of deplorables” — and you can’t forget “nasty.” But post-election, one word has recently caught a lot of people's attention: "cuck."

WARNING: This podcast contains explicit language and sexual content. 

It’s a slur being used by white nationalists and white supremacists — the so-called "alt right” — people like Richard Spencer, the president of the National Policy Institute. The deceptively generic-sounding organization espouses white nationalist ideology. During their conference in Washington, DC right after the presidential election, Spencer made headlines by using the phrase “Hail Trump” in his speech.

In the same speech he also used the word “cuck.”

But long before white supremacists grabbed hold of it, the word, which has roots in the ancient insult “cuckold,” took some interesting turns in its modern usage.

This week on The World in Words podcast we focus on the word "cuck." What does it mean? Who uses it? And how did it become the slur of choice for white supremacists? We'll hear from linguist Michael Adams, sex columnist Dan Savage and white nationalist Richard Spencer.

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00:00 Another warning. There is explicit language and sexual content in this podcast. 

00:24  This has been an election season of words: bigly, big league, deplorable, nasty and cuck

1:08 Richard Spencer at the National Policy Institute Convention in Washington, DC


2:15 Joe Rogan explains the word “cuck”


2:52 Gavin McInnes explaining the meaning of the portmanteau "cuckservative" on "The Blaze"


4:10 Actor Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch were verbally assaulted at a bar in LA and called “cucks”:

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5:30  The origins of the very ancient insult cuckold

5:55  Michael Adams is a professor of language and literature at Indiana University, Bloomington.   He studies slang.  He recently wrote a book called "In Praise of Profanity."

7:35  The sound of a curse word does matter. Speaking is really gesturing inside of your mouth says Adams

8:55  What’s the difference between “cuck” and “pussy”?

10:17  In modern times the word “cuck” has appeared in surprising niches in some video gamer circles and in kink/fetish communities

10:53  Dan Savage is an international syndicated sex columnist and podcaster.  You can listen to him on the Savage Lovecast

11:30  Ten to fifteen years ago the term “cuckold” was adopted by certain members of the kink/fetish community

12:19  Is the term a pejorative for the kink community?

13:22  Is there a racialized aspect of “cuckolding”?

18:15  White nationalists or the “alt right” seem to be re-re-appropriating the term from the cuckold community, says Savage

21:01  Has “cuck” become the new “fag”?

22:30  Calling up Richard Spencer.  What is he thinking when he uses the term “cuck”?

24:53  Why use a slur?

26:20  Spencer’s feelings on being called slurs himself

27:35  How Spencer feels about the evolution of the derisive word

29:37  Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you. Really?

30:11  Thomas Middleditch embraces “cuck”

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30:35  You can now purchase a "Cuck AF" t-shirt.

30:42  Comedian Tim Heidecker’s political parody song, “I am a Cuck”

32:00  Bonus appearance by Patrick Cox to discuss green hats in China

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