a cunt by any other name…

There is a gap in my personal vocabulary: I’ve noticed that I tend to avoid using words for ‘girl bits’ [to wit: ‘down there’]. I don’t really care for any of them, and, frankly, until fairly recently I wasn’t talking about them often enough to need a word (context was certainly sufficient). But this seems a bit overly delicate for a sex blog, no? So, I shall consider a few of my options.

The words all seem either formal or vulgar. I suppose that’s likely because the subject matter is still somewhat taboo, so theoretically there is no need for a day-to-day word.

Formal terms

‘Vagina’, despite its commonness, still seems rather clinical. It’s the word you teach children and then generally only use with your doctor. It seems artificial to me because it was only invented in the late 17th century. Also, it means the internal passage but is popularly (and incorrectly) used also to mean the opening and the outside parts. My inner pedant is appalled — minus two points. (My inner linguist shrugs and says “huh, semantic shift in action”, but the pedant wins this round.)

‘Vulva’ refers to the collection of related parts on the outside and is probably the most accurate and yet it gets very little action, so to speak. (Googling ‘vagina’ gets 10 times more hits than ‘vulva’.) It ultimately derives from Latin volvere ‘to turn, twist, roll, revolve’ and thus is related to the name Volvo. One point for whimsy.

‘Pudenda’ also means external genitalia but, like ‘vagina’, it’s a made-up Latin word from the 17th century, and it literally means ‘shameful [parts]’. This isn’t helping. Minus 5 points.

‘Genitals’ is also rather clinical to my ear (leave your Virgin Mary jokes in the comments below), in addition to being gender non-specific. But this one is older — 14th century (from Latin by way of Old French rather than as a deliberate coining) — which, to me, gives it a bit of unexpected charm. One point.

Slang terms

‘Pussy.’ I think in my formative years, I mostly heard this word used by people who seemed like jerks. Also, it only goes back to the late 1800s, and so I dismiss it as rather modern. The parts have existed since the dawn of time, so I’d prefer a word that respects the heritage in some way.

‘Cunt’ is definitely vulgar. I used to cringe when I heard it, probably because it was almost always deliberately used to be maximally offensive, but I’m warming up to it now. I like the honest Germanicness of it. First attested in the street name ‘Gropecunt Lane’, c. 1230 in Oxford (and later in many other medieval English towns), it earns two points for being the oldest word in my list, and one more because I’ve actually been there (though it’s now called Magpie Lane). (How awesome that Dictionary.com provides etymological info for ‘cunt’!)

There are many other words, but they appeal even less. So ‘cunt’ it is! … Maybe.

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