The V-Word

Cary McNeal

You know what's hard? Finding the proper word to refer to the female genitalia. Not that it comes up in conversation often, but when it does, I never know what to call it without sounding silly or like one of those pamphlets your mom gives you after your first period.

Flickr photo by aussiegall
Yes, I know it's a vagina but, as Maude Lebowski notes in that cinema classic, The Big Lebowski, "The word itself makes some men uncomfortable." Some women, too.

Back when I worked in TV full-time, I had a co-worker who was one of those individuals with no filter whatsoever. For her, as they say, "What came up came out." In one weekly staff review of everyone's spots, after a particularly underwhelming promo, this woman blurted out, "Ugh. That made my vagina hurt."

Even funnier than her comment was the reaction of another co-worker, a woman who was conservative and perpetually disapproving and, dare I say, repressed. Think Angela on The Office. This woman's face contorted into a look of absolute terror, like she'd just seen her puppy, three nuns, and Hugh Jackman get flattened by a bullet train. She closed her eyes, covered her ears and said, "Ackkk! Don't say that word!"

"What word?" No-Filter Lady asked.

"Vagina," I said.

She laughed and looked at Ms. Repressed. "Really? Vagina?"


"Stop what? Saying VAGINA?"


"What's wrong with VAGINA?" I chimed in. The game was afoot.


"I like VAGINAS," another guy said.

"VAGINAS frightens me," said a third.

"My VAGINA is laughing," said another woman, and within seconds everyone in the room had joined in the vagina-thon, like a bunch of crows cawing at a cat. That cat was Ms. Repressed, who looked like her head was about to explode.

Yes, we were all 12.

So if vagina is dicey, what word is okay? The P-word is popular, but don't most women find it offensive? I avoid it just to be safe. Ditto the B-word.

Beyond that, what is there? I know every family with kids has its own little cute way of referring to private parts, but if you're talking to another adult and say hoo-hoo or vajayjay or dilly cha-cha, you sound kind of silly.

What does that leave?

Cooter? Funny word, but no.

Beaver? Ick.

Fanny? That's fine for Brits but here it means the backside, of course. Unfortunately, my American friend Fran didn't realize this difference when she traveled to the UK to meet her in-laws-to-be and told them that the flight was fine but long, and her fanny hurt.

Coosie Mae? That's what my wife used to call it until I asked her to stop. We aren't the Beverly Hillbillies.

Twat? I use that word, but for jerks, not genitalia.

I just can't decide, so I put the question to you: what should a man call your lady bits? Is vagina really the word you want to hear? Or is your sacred spot like Lord Valdemort: S(he) Who Must Not Be Named?

Read More