Teach your daughter to say ‘vagina’ loudly and clearly and not to be embarrassed by the word.

So said a Facebook forward.  Crikey – was this even contraversial?

I read through the comments just in case.  And yes, it turned out to be.  I found people commenting to the effect that we don’t teach our children to say ‘brachium’: we just call it an arm.  So why use ‘posh’ medical terms for the private parts?

Well, because I don’t know a ‘common’ unloaded, child-friendly universally-recognised equivalent for ‘vagina’.  The words all sound demeaning, jokey or rude.  As though you’re trying to avoid referring to something by its real name.

‘My tuppence looks a bit funny….’

As a vet in South Yorkshire, I have examined a lot of tuppences. The first time I gritted my teeth in case i’d guessed wrong.  But I had not.

It gave me false confidence in my guessing though.  A few months later, a bloke in Newcastle brought in a huge, uncastrated male great dane and asked me to look at its dominoes.  His face was a pretty colour when he had to explain he’d meant its teeth.


So can you think of a better word?  (For vagina, not teeth).  Is there a word as sensible and unloaded as ‘arm?’

Obviously, I googled it.  There were descriptive ones:  ‘Box,’ ‘Bearded clam,’ ‘Badly wrapped kebab,’ ‘Sideways smile,’ ‘Melissa’s mop-bucket.’  There are ruder ones (I’ll spare you those) and then there were things like FuFu, Fanny and Pussy.

So. ‘Vagina’ it’s going to be.  As soon as Toddler realises it isn’t part of her ‘bottom.’  And I have already heard her explaining very cheerfully to strangers that her bother has a ‘penist.’

Talking of Tiddler; Tiddler’s talking too.  He says the usual sort of thing:  ‘Quack-quack,’ ‘more,’ ‘mum,’ ‘Uh-oh’ and ‘No.’  Especially ‘no.’

Now is a traditional time for ‘Mother-ease’ (as researchers used to call it in the sexist seventies), more commonly referred to as ‘Baby-talk.’  You can imagine I’m not the sort of person who does this naturally (‘Shall we put our socky-wockies on our piggy-wiggies, then?’)  which is a shame because it’s supposed to be useful for the kids. Parents apparently have an evolved or cultural urge to do it.  But not this parent.

Still, I’m good with silly poetry and animal noises. I focus on that.  Toddler could make all the farmyard noises before she got ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada.’  Except for rabbits, of course.  There’s always that awkward silence when they want me to make a noise like a rabbit.

Pig noises cause issues, though.  I nearly died when Tiddler was the only one at Cathedral playgroup who did loud, realistic pig snorts in ‘Old McDonald’ instead of squeaking ‘oink, oink.’

There are times when linguistic development is not something to celebrate.  Soon they will learn that ‘bad’ language that shows a lack of imagination.  Of course, I say this with my tongue in my cheek: ‘Fuck’ is one of my favourite words:  it can be used as a noun or a verb, or adapted for adjectives with numerous different meanings.  Or simply as an emphatic space-filler.

You’d never have heard my Grannie say ‘fucking.’  She used to use the word ‘Damn,’ but it didn’t quite have the same versitility. ‘Damn’ was a polite swear-word harping back to a time when words to do with hell were even more evocative than those to do with sex.

Anyway, ‘Damn’ it was. And occasionally, ‘Sugar.’  But surely it takes as little imagination to say ‘sugar’ as ‘shit?’  ‘Damn’ as ‘Fucking?’  Sure, your choice of swear word marks out your generation but swearing is the way you use the word, not the word itself.  I thought I’d try ‘crocussing’ out, to describe my singing.  It is spring, after all.

I don’t want to “convey my frustration, isolation or embarassment at being unable to vibrate my vocal cords at such a speed that they resonate with those of the people around me in church.”  This is not what I want to say.

I want to say….

“How crocussed off am I not to be able to crocussing sing!”

You see?  For the introduction of a swear-word, the meaning comes out far more emphatically.

But there are words that make me wince.  I don’t like the c-word much (not ‘crocus,’ the other one).  I’ve already mentioned that words to do with sex were last generation’s shocking (following on from those about hell which were dying out by my Grannie’s time).  Well, one of my generation’s most evocative swear-words is to do with the female private parts and that ,makes me feel very sad.  Did I mention that I like the word ‘vagina,’ myself?

But back to the point: what should i tell the kids?  That I don’t swear?

Perhaps if they were stupid.

Sadly my kids are brighter than me.  They seem to win battles where, given the size and strength of the competetors, you would have thought the odds should be stacked against them.  They spot double-standards everywhere.  (‘Stop whining, Mummy,’ said Toddler the other day,  She sounded like my mother…..).  ,

Anyway, they’ve heard me swear so they are going to have to learn the more complex version.  About assessing situations before breathing out certain words.  I sometimes get that wrong and doubtless so will they.  I worry about getting into trouble with their school-teacher.

Still, they can always revert to their wonderful childish charm they carry about in their mouths.  Toddler now has sentences, and the ones that don’t begin with ‘why’ are beautiful.  I’ve never been more proud than when I heard her say she’d ‘putted’ something away – and not just because of the tidiness, but because she had taken the past tense rule and applied it to the word ‘put.’  She hadn’t copied ‘putted’.  It was something to celebrate.

And then there is a chestnut that still makes me smile every day:

‘Look, Mummy.  I’ve found snowdroppings.’


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