To vulva or not to vulva? That is the question. And it was first posed to me by a wonderful (and somewhat boundaryless) friend of mine some 10 or more years ago, in the middle of an open plan office. Now that was a Tuesday to remember.
At the time, she was debating what to call her small child’s lady parts. (‘Lady parts’, by the way, was never any sort of contender, on the grounds of being offensively euphemistic, unattractively po-faced, and alarmingly Kenneth Williams).
When it was my turn to face the dilemma, I was actually quite surprised to find that a decade on there was STILL no appealingly benign opposite of the universally used ‘willy’ to describe the rude bits (not rude – don’t want them to grow up with a complex!) of the female small person.
Oh, there are plenty of contenders, and after a quick survey of both friends and the internet, popular names appear to include the following:
Sounds like a poodle. Could get confusing in middle class parks like Millhouses.
Old MacDonald has just taken on a whole new meaning in your toddler’s mind.
Seriously? A train analogy? Into the tunnel we go? No. I don’t have time to go into all the different kinds of wrong this is. Get your coat.
Okay, stop with the twee double wording now. And it’s not just for weeing!
Personally, I’d like my daughters to put rather more value on their vaginas than this implies.
See above. Euphemistic. The idea is not to make the female genitalia something to be ashamed of, or squeamish about. (I’m also ruling out the phrase ‘down below’).
Yes, it’s important for children to know their genitalia is private, but defining it solely by its privacy is not quite right… That’s not the first thing I want my daughters to think about this very important part of their bodies. I want this associated with happiness, pleasure and pride, preferably before privacy.
A slang term that seems sometimes to have derogatory connotations – avoid. (Also never say ‘coochie coochie coo’ to a baby).
This could lead to some very dangerous Nativity-based questioning. Happy Christmas to you if this is your term of choice.
As in mouse? Confusing and icky-cutesy.
Leaving aside the American confusion, this is still rather unsatisfactory, and even slightly unsavoury. Smacks of bad 70s comedies – a la Mrs Slocombe’s ‘pussy’.
No. I’ve also automatically discarded anything else blatantly rude. (Grandma, btw, insists on calling cats by this name, which takes rigorous re-programming whenever the big talking child returns from a visit. Pussy-CAT, darling. PUSSY-CAT).
Good word, but slightly inaccurate. If we’re going to go with biological fundamentals this word refers very specifically to, well, the vagina. It’s not the right word for the whole kit and caboodle.
Sooooo confusing! It’s not in the least like a bottom, with completely separate functions, and if they want to avoid years of Canesten ahead of them they need to learn to distinguish between the two and keep them hygienically separate. Front to back, kids, front to back.
Anatomical accuracy in this most sensitive of areas is actually quite important. Not least because your child – and you – really need to be able to understand and describe whether an itch or irritation is around the vulva, in the vagina, the clitoris, the inner or outer labia etc etc. This could be the difference between a water infection, thrush, foot and mouth blah blah blah.
I see where we’re going here. Fine china, vagina – cockney rhyming slang. Easily broken and must be handled with care. Only get the best stuff out when you’ve got guests round. Never put it in the dishwasher.
Also no. This is Sheffield, not Essex.
It’s enough to make Cbeebies Mr Bloom blush! It’s not a bloody plant, however pretty or fragrant. Neither is it perennial. And heaven help the female small person helping Granny with the gardening.
This is pretty much what we’re left with after dismissing everything above.
Let’s say it together. Vulva. Vul-va. Vulva. VULVA.
Try saying it out loud and seeing what kind of reaction you get from those around you. (Possibly avoid this if you’re at work). Let me know how that works out for you.
What, you may ask, do we say in Chateau Mumonthenetheredge?
Despite my ambitions to be ‘right on,’ sisters, I’m afraid that I still baulked at the idea of my small person telling Grandma in a pre-schoolers shriek (presumably somewhere nice and public like a supermarket aisle or nice and quiet like a library) that her vulva was itching.
Oh, I know it’s the right word. I know, I know. But I just couldn’t do it!
So we say ‘bits’ in our house.
It’s not ideal. It IS euphemistic. I’m not 100% happy with it.
But as long as my daughters are happy with theirs, I suppose that’s all that really matters. (Turns out in one case she’s very happy with it – but that’s a WHOLE other blog…. I haven’t had enough wine yet.)
Now this isn’t a new debate, and I’m sure you’ve had or seen versions of it many times before. But it will continue as long as we have no satisfactory conclusion, and actually, I’ve got a very special reason for posting it here.
What Sheffield has in common with Shakespeare – besides alliteration – is a talent for making up words from scratch in order to fill senseless semantic voids. (Two quick and well documented examples include ‘nesh’ for those too pathetic to deal with a bit of Northern chill, or ‘jennal’ for those paths between terraced houses or at the end or between streets).
So come on Sheffield, what do you call ‘bits’? And what new word could you invent to fill this really very unfortunate vocab gap? Here’s the criteria for the challenge. It’s got to be:
Do your best. Or worst! I for one will thank you for it.
Oh, and if you enter on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mumonthenetheredge) before 3 June 2016 there’s a £10 Mothercare voucher up for grabs too!