It’s a dillypot, a birdbath, an oracle.
Hundreds of names and slang terms exist for your hoo-ha, cooter, or plain old vagina. That’s a lot of anatomy to learn—especially when you also consider the appropriate situations, groups of people, and conversational cues that accompany each name (think poon versus lady bits). And even though modern English offers plenty of ways to refer to the beloved Pink Panther, new titles are seemingly popping up all the time. What gives, and is this a good or bad thing?
Those are some of the questions Jonathon Green’s research as a slang lexicographer helps linguists and curious people understand. I myself studied linguistics in college and was always intrigued by the concept of semantic derogation, which occurs when a word’s original connotations negatively change over time. To give you an idea, think of examples such as wench or gay.
When it comes to word change over time, particularly slang, Green is a master. In fact, he’s teamed with TimeGlider to create a pretty comprehensive timeline of terms that refer to the vagina, labia, clitoris, and pubic hair (and cunt appears first, as far back as the 1200s!) This was surprising to me because I assumed the now foul term was a fairly recent addition popularized by trashy porn and rap lyrics—but neither of these conventions were around back then.
An article by Refinery29 summed up the progression perfectly by saying, “the vagina was eventually lavished with more poetic euphemisms” until society turned to 20th-century food references “as evidenced by the monikers bikini burger, hairy doughnut, and bacon sandwich.”
Some words, such as those containing any reference to Venus, make a bit of sense when you think about them while others, such as nanty crackling, are a bit harder to decipher.
Green was cited by Fast Company saying, “Slang is just one more part of the bigger English language, but it has always tended to concentrate on certain themes. The penis is often going to be some kind of weapon, the vagina some kind of narrow passage, intercourse some way of saying ‘man hits woman.'”
Obviously, that relationship sheds a bit more light on the problem of how female terms are coined—as well as why a ton of them are derogatory. As a child, my family’s word for private parts was peeper, but I wonder if there are potential benefits to raising both male and female kids who refer to reproductive organs by their actual physiological names—and not what society is calling them.
We’re curious…which words do you prefer to use in your own daily language? If you’re a parent, how do you decide the words your children will use?