The mother of invention made it good for me
Tighter in the rear
Longer in the seam
Kicked out yards of leather
Wrapped around her waist
Trimmed it to perfection
And left a little space
Since God Invented Girls, Bernie Taupin
(c) 1988 Big Pig Music
Is it Bajingo or Bazinga?
Vagina. What a word. Three syllables. Six letters. But powerful. When I was growing up, you never, ever, ever, EVER said that word in public. We also didn’t talk about menstruation, usually, but sometimes we did. But we never EVER said the word vagina. Not even at slumber parties. And we certainly never said the word in front of members of the opposite sex. We never said the word penis either, for that matter, but that’s another story.
I remember watching some actress (I can’t remember her name) on the Tonight Show years ago. She was talking about sex, and instead of saying vagina, she pointed to her vagina and said “down there.” That’s how polite society talked about sex. You didn’t say the word. Period. (No pun intended.)
People used euphemisms and cute names instead, like “coochie”, “hoo-ha” and “poontang”. In the 1700’s, it was called a “Venus honeypot”. That was later shortened to just honeypot.
“Beaver” and “taco” are popular terms as well. I can understand “taco”, but “beaver” is not as clear. According to Facts and Chicks, the word comes from the fact that in the 17th century, prostitutes wore hair pieces made of beaver fur on their beavers. Why did they do this? Were they cold? Or was it a fashion statement? Did they take them off before getting down to business? So many questions.
“Pussy” has also been around for a while. Johnny Carson supposedly used the word in an infamous conversation with Zsa Zsa Gabor on his show. According to both Snopes and Johnny Carson himself, however, this never happened. Sorry, Billy; I know you really liked that story.
Interestingly, the derogatory term “cunt” goes all the way back to 1250. And it remains derogatory to this day. Calling someone a bitch no longer does it. If you really want to insult a woman, you call her the “c-word.”
For a list of historical euphemisms for vagina, go here. By the way, there are a heck of a lot articles about vagina euphemisms on the internet. Everyone seems to be asking the same question, which is– why has the word become popular on TV?
Remember the TV show Scrubs? Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), who was a doctor, couldn’t say vagina. She called it her “bajingo.” I think Sheldon Cooper stole that word for The Big Bang Theory. No, he says “bazinga”. Close though, don’t you think? What would Dr. Freud say about that?
My mother did use the correct term with us children (on the one and only occasion that it was discussed), which is curious since we called urinate “tinkle.” My dad called poop “big duty”, as in “I have to go do my big duty.” He made a production out of everything.
As teenagers, we thought vaginas were ugly. All that red and hair everywhere. That was long before bikini waxes. Believe it or not, I know one man who likes seeing a few pubes escaping from a woman’s swimsuit.
Squirrel! I digress.
The Vagina Monologues
The first time I saw the marquee for The Vagina Monologues, I must admit, I was shocked. I don’t shock easily, and I pride myself on having an open mind. I was born in California, for heaven’s sake. But vagina? On a billboard? How could that be allowed to happen? The Vagina Monologues first appeared off Broadway in New York in 1996. Vaginas have been there much longer. When people bought tickets to the show back then, they couldn’t bring themselves to say the word. Eve Ensler, the playwright, explained her use of the word as follows: “what we don’t say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths.” That makes perfect sense to me.
So, who broke the taboo and when? All of a sudden, the word seems to be everywhere, especially on T.V. Technically, it has never been prohibited because it is a medical term. According to Slate:
“As long as a word isn’t used to titillate and doesn’t describe sex or excretory acts in explicit detail, it is not considered “indecent.” Medical terms, including vagina, fall into that category.”
Ok then, it’s always been allowed, but never used until lately. Tampon and sanitary napkin (another euphemism) ads never say the word. Apparently Kotex showed one commercial that did, but the networks banned it.
The earliest reference I could find was 1998 on Friends, when Phoebe, in labor with triplets, says to Ross: “I don’t see three kids coming our of your vagina!”
Vagina went underground until 2007 when Tina Fey revived it on 30 Rock. Jenna Maloney says: “My vagina is a convenience store. Clean and reliable. And closed on Christmas.” Damn that Tina Fey. I knew she was behind this! If only she had gone to William and Mary instead of UVA.
Oprah Winfrey started saying it on her show in 2008. Before that, she called it her vajayjay.
According the New York Times, the trend got its legs in 2011. Now the word is used with some regularity on T.V. Just watch Two Broke Girls, Grey’s Anatomy or Girls. Apparently Lena Dunham says the word multiple times on her show.
It’s not like Beetlejuice
Jon Stewart, a W&M grad, recently commented on the word on his show, The Daily Show:
“What are they worried about? Vaginas aren’t like Voldemort or Beetlejuice. Invoking the name `vagina’ doesn’t make them suddenly appear. Believe me, if it did, high school would have been very different for me.”
I think it’s fine. In fact, I think it’s about time. Like any other word, it will lose its shock value the more it is used. I’ve already gotten used to hearing it, although it still makes me giggle a little bit. Pretty soon I’ll be able to say it out loud too.
Really, it is the proper medical term, and it’s not a dirty word, so why not use it?
What do you think?