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Home / Articles / Opinion / Sordid Tales /  There’s ...
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Monday, Jun 09, 2014

There’s no such thing as a bad synonym for ‘vagina’

A response to Nina Bahadur’s column in the Huffington Post

By Edwin Decker

In her Huffington Post column, "The 13 Worst Synonyms for 'Vagina,'" Nina Bahadur poses two questions: Why are they so gross or in other ways unacceptable? And why do we even need synonyms for vagina when the word vagina works perfectly well? 

"We've rounded up some of the most common euphemisms," Bahadur explains at the outset, "and ranked them from least terrible to most."

The first three on the list of "terrible' synonyms for vagina are, unsurprisingly, cooter, snatch and pussy, which—in the right context—are perfectly reasonable terms but, OK, I understand why most women dislike them. But what's wrong with muffin, which comes in at No. 5? I mean, "muffin" is a deliciously delightful term for the warm, baked goods twixt a woman's thighs. And I was surprised to see flower, which was on Bahadur's list of terrible euphemisms because, as she snottily explains, "Your vagina isn't a flower, it's a body part."

Well, don't get your pistil all puckered up about it, lady. It's a metaphor. How does a writer not know that some of the best synonyms are also metaphors? "One-armed bandit" is an excellent synonym for "slot machine." "Snail mail" is great for "Postal Service." Children are "rugrats," and cigarettes are "coffin nails," and what could be a sweeter, more lovely metaphor for vagina—what it is, what it looks like and what it represents in nature—than a frickin' flower? The thing has ovaries for crying out loud. And ovum. And a, um, "receptacle." And petals!

Same thing with beaver, which the author complains is "an animal... not a part of a woman's anatomy."

Well, no duh, Vadonna! When it comes to cunnilinguistics, I'm not crazy about "beaver," either, but not because it's an animal; it's because it's the wrong animal. Clearly a better choice as the go-to rodentia euphemism would have been "muskrat."

Also on her list of terrible synonyms are va-jay-jay, coochie, woo-hoo and ya-hoo, which are, yes, silly terms but perfectly acceptable if you're a big-bootied babe on a reality housewife show talking about how you "kicked that home-wrecking ho right in the hoo-ha."

And therein lies the answer to Bahadur's utterly inane question. Why do we need synonyms for vagina? Well, aside from variety, which should be obvious to everyone, there are often substantive differences in the tone and potential context of words and their sister-synonyms. Not every synonym is right for every situation. As Mark Twain once noted, "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

For instance, if a man and woman are having a passionate entanglement in the sack, how loud do you think her guffaws would be if he blurted, "Oh, baby, I want to perform intercourse with your vagina"? Just as a woman would never say to her gynecologist, "Hey, doc, will you examine my box—it's been acting funny lately." Nor would a parent ever say to a daughter during potty training, "Honey, don't forget to wipe your twat." And think of all the prose that would be devastated, like when Leontes laments in Romeo and Juliet that in his friend's absence, "his pond fish'd by his next neighbor," which, in Bahadur's world, would have been written as, "His neighbor went fishing in his wife's vagina."

And Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" would have been called "This Song is About Courtney's Vagina"; Prince's "Little Red Corvette" would have been yawningly titled "Vagina, That's All, Just Vagina"; and Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" would have been written as, "My Embryonic Müllerian Vaginal Duct." And, well, I just have to say: Women can be such pussies about their pussies. 

You never see or hear a man getting all dick-hurt about the various euphemisms for penis. You're never gonna see a column by a male about how the word "prick" is offensive, or that "cock" is too nasty and "meat puppet" too gross. And while women, generally speaking, loathe the word "melons" when referring to their bazongas, you're never going to hear a man cry out, "My testicles are not bouncy rubber toys!" when somebody refers to them as "balls."

At the end of her piece, Bahadur sums it up by saying we all should just "stick to the classic, 'vagina.'"

Two things about this laughable statement: First, it should be noted that the word "vagina" is no better—in fact it might be worse—than the other vaj-type words. Because "vagina" is from the Latin vāgīna, which means, literally, "sheath" or "scabbard," suggesting that its entire purpose is to holster a phallus, diminishing all of its important other functions that have nothing to do with servicing men or stowing their equipment.

Secondly, wow: You've got stones lady. How can you call yourself a writer and suggest that we eliminate all but one of the words for one of the most fascinating, mystifying, magical, terrifying, magnetic objects on the planet? Sorry, but nope. I, for one, don't want to live in a world where "vagina" is the only word for a vagina. Euphemisms for genitalia, male or female, are bedazzling! Some are funny, some are silly, some are graphic, some are outrageous, some are uncannily accurate, some are perplexing, some are risqué and some are outright taboo. But all of them are necessary. It's necessary for humans to have the widest possible range of language to express themselves—in all our different ways, in all our different sensibilities, in all our different contexts.

Write to and Edwin Decker blogs at Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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