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by any other name?

November 29, 2012

Right then … I’ve been struggling with a dilemma for months now … well, 10 to be precise … almost 11 …

and today in the Telegraph someone else has raised the issue

Little girl’s parts and what to call them.

I’ve been conducting an international survey that has given me answers (all from people I respect and admire, one a rock musician, one a top business exec in America, a few Dads, lots of mothers, my own mother and a senior consultant in pediatrics).

If I’d had a son I don’t think it would be such an issue … winkie, willy, penis …  seem fine to me and one is a bit of a ‘cute’ word, one is widely used and one is the ‘proper’ name … I know there are many others but if I’d had a boy then I’d probably have used willy and penis …

however … girls parts (outside and front) …

much harder … I asked my mother initially and she said very matter of factly, “everything below the waist is the bottom” (that maybe explains why I’ve never been sure!!!), then I asked my oldest friend, “vagina” she said, “no”, I answered, “that’s the inside bit”, “oh,” she replied, “bottom” … at least it wasn’t just me … this got me wondering which is where my ‘survey’ started:

So far I have been told that people use the following words with their daughters (or themselves),

Mary (3)

Pom Pom (2)

Frou Frou (1)

Fluffer (1)

Front Bottom (14)

Front Hind (6)

Forehind (2)

Fanny (in America this would be confusing as fanny really is what we Brits refer to as a bottom) (11)

Bits (25)

Parts (20)

Nether regions (bless an elderly friend) (1)

and one person said Vulva (which is technically correct) and someone else said “Oh you mean the pendulum”

My reaction to Pom Pom, Frou Frou and Fluffer was REALLY, you have got to be KIDDING ME (although that might have been slightly more inward than the “Ohhhhh” that I articulated), the hospital consultant suggested ‘fanny’ and American friends suggested ‘front’ and ‘forehind’ … so …

I’m still none the wiser, we just use the words bits and parts for the front, and bottom for the back … I guess as she gets older we’ll get more formal, I will certainly teach her the correct words and maybe one day she’ll coin a ‘pet name’ herself (apparently that is how my friend’s daughter’s parts became known as her Pom Pom).

I shall continue questioning people and let you know if anything else appears to be widely used for children … so far ‘bits’ ‘fanny’ and ‘front bottom’ seem to be the clear leaders…  obviously the important thing is that children grow up respecting their and other children’s bodies and not feeling shy or awkward and that their parents do too, they need to grow up understanding the special nature of their bodies, and their ‘private parts’ and that they are to be protected but that they are not embarrassing or something to be coy about at the same time… art and sculpture is a great way to get them used to nudity I reckon.  I wonder so often about the long term effect of all the things I do with Hope from day to day as she grows and this is yet another conundrum I’ve added to the list of things to wonder about. When we were in California, the 7 year old son of a friend helped me change Hope’s nappy / diaper one day (he has a younger brother and no sisters), when I took Hope’s nappy off he stood up and looked at me horrified and said, “She’s got no penis” … that made me smile although I did call his mother in later to explain after my attempt, “girls and boys are different” seemed to leave him perplexed. She came up with something similar and he looked even more confused and replied to her, “but yours is hairy” and so the endless explanations continued!!!

I’m not especially keen on euphemisms and I don’t like pet names but this particular dilemma has had me wondering. I also don’t like prudishness and think correct English is the best way to go, but the word ‘vulva’ somehow seems not quite right … That’s why a friend (with a son) forwarded me the Torygraph link earlier (I asked her way back in the summer and she said something about being glad she’d had a boy as I recall)! I hasten to say with all this I am considering the parenting dilemma regarding what to refer to with very young children and not what grown men and women may refer to that region as, that is a whole different area and not one I want to consider here.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2012 12:53 pm

    I use willy or penis for boys and vagina (although not strictly 100% accurate) or ‘bits’ (as in ‘bits and pieces’) for girls.

    Aptly timed entry for me though, as my little girl has recently become fascinated by the difference between boys and girls. After having a conversation with her about the difference, she proudly declared that Daddy and Oliver (baby brother) have a willy and Izzy and Mummy have “a ‘gina-ormous bits”.

    I try not to take it personally that my daughter thinks I have a giant vagina.

    • November 29, 2012 2:49 pm

      oh you did make me laugh with that post … thank you …

  2. November 29, 2012 12:58 pm

    Strangely I was having this very conversation last night (un-promted by the paper) when a friend asked what my NCT group all call their son’s ‘bits’ I was the only one to even go with willy, the rest being dingle and stuff like that. I don’t really agree with calling bits of the anatomy anything frou frou, and certainly actually calling it a frou frou, but then, I don’t know what I’d call a girl’s ‘bits’ either, there seems nothing that isn’t either too technical, vulgar or overly cutesy. Humph!

  3. November 29, 2012 12:58 pm

    My daughter’s called hers a vagina since she could talk. I know it’s not technically correct, but she doesn’t care about the technicalities, and I couldn’t bear to use any kind of euphemism (it’s also essential that kids know the correct terminology for their private parts, even if they don’t use it). Interestingly now she’s 6 I’ve noticed she’s less free and easy about using the word, perhaps because of the influence of school?

  4. November 29, 2012 2:48 pm

    I’ve put a poll on Mush Brained Ramblings Facebook page on this …

  5. Linda permalink
    November 29, 2012 2:54 pm

    Well, one of my little granddaughters informed me the other day that her bottom is at the back, and her minnie is at the front. My little grandson has a willy, of which he is very proud and I think she obviously felt the need to name her bits so she wouldn’t be left out!

  6. Linda permalink
    November 29, 2012 2:57 pm

    ….and my Gran used to call her bits her “fundamentals” 🙂

    • November 29, 2012 11:19 pm

      “fundamentals” is just brilliant … thanks Linda!!

  7. Julia ) permalink
    November 29, 2012 5:49 pm

    I have no problems with using medical terminology for body parts. When referring to their body part, men don’t seem to separate their head from their shaft from their urethra. It’s all called a penis. I have heard feminists make a big deal about referring to it as a vagina because calling it anything else demeans females to them. But I haven’t witnessed too many men feel inferior about calling their “penis” Mr. Happy. In the end it’s all just semantics because nothing has any meaning except for the meaning that I, you or we as humans choose to give it. Having said all of the above, if I had a daughter, I’d probably refer to her pussy as a vagina! LOL!

  8. November 29, 2012 11:15 pm

    Golly I didn’t realise the reaction all this would provoke … I also started a thread over on MumsNet which I think you can see without logging in … some wonderful comments and some even more fabulous names … including
    Auntie Betsie
    and so on and so fourth … enjoy the read it will make you laugh out loud … and want to celebrate the fun and joy of sharing thoughts on such a topic


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