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"... let us first establish a hierarchy of cuckoldry and introduce into this serious debate the beacon of analytic method, which the philosophers regard as the path to truth. Among cuckolds, it is possible to distinguish nine degrees of cuckoldry, both among men and women, for women are cuckolded far more often than men; indeed if the husband has horns as tall as a stag's antlers, the wife's may be said to be as high as the branches of a tree." --The Theory of the Four Movements (1808) by Charles Fourier

"In support of these two words, insolvency and cuckoldry, the greatest social infamies, bankruptcy and adultery, are found at the level of virtues, since they enjoy compound protection, namely: tacit and negative tutelage of the law, express and positive tutelage of public opinion."

--Manuscripts of Fourier, English translation JWG

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A cuckold is a married man whose wife has sex with other men. In current usage it sometimes refers to non-married couples in committed relationships as well, although the traditional meaning is a man whose wife is adulterous.

History of the term

Cuckold is derived from the Old French for the cuckoo, cocu, with the pejorative suffix -ald. The earliest written use of the Middle English derivation, cokewold, occurs in 1250. The females of certain varieties of cuckoo lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, freeing themselves from the need to nurture the eggs to hatching.

Cuckolds have sometimes been written as "wearing the horns of a cuckold" or just "wearing the horns". This refers to the fact that the man being cuckolded is the last to know of his wife's infidelity. He is wearing horns that can be seen by everybody but him. This also refers to a tradition claiming that in villages of unknown European location, the community would gather to collectively humiliate a man whose wife gives birth to a child recognizably not his own. According to this legend, a parade was held in which the hapless husband is forced to wear antlers on his head as a symbol of his wife’s infidelity. Whether this did actually happen or not is inconsequential as the phrase has survived.

In French the term is porter des cornes and is used by Molière to describe someone whose consort has been unfaithful. Molière's L'École des femmes (1662) is the story of a man who mocks cuckolds and becomes one at the end. In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c.1372-77), the Miller's Tale is a story that humorously examines the life of a cuckold. The genre has recently been revived by Howard Jacobson in his 2008 novel The Act of Love.

The term dates from the Roman empire, since legionaries returning from the war were given horns as a triumph or prize. So, the use of the term is a mockery of the husband, victorious in the battlefield, but defeated in his own bed.

See also

Historic accounts

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cuckold" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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