Oprah gets into the news for the weirdest stuff. Sunday she was written up by the New York Times as the popularizer of the term “va-jay-jay” as a euphemism for, well, you know what. Oprah Winfrey, however, can get away with funny words for private parts; parents, on the other hand, get into trouble for doing the same thing.
After I wrote about the “Hoo-Hoo” on the bus incident, someone e-mailed to ask me why we’re teaching Boobaby to say “Hoo-Hoo” to refer to her private parts in the first place. Apparently, there’s a movement behind getting kids to use “real” words for their genitalia. Everyone seems to have a different reason:
- Accidental overlap. Buddy Boy uses “za-za” for vagina, which was great until 4-year old Zahara’s parents started using that as her nickname. (Ouch!) For that matter, Boo must wonder why the owls in all her books are saying “Vulva! Vulva!”
- Mistakes that are really embarrassing. A playground acquaintance was proudly teaching her daughter to say “vagina.” She was mortified when a friend observed that external bit that the kid was referring to is actually the vulva — the vagina is the internal tract only, not the outside parts. Let’s explain that to a three-year old, shall we? You first.
- If you use scientific names for genitals, your kids are less likely to be molested. I don’t really understand the reasoning behind this one, except to say that some believe that those who victimize children might approach them in a “playful” way. I just can’t see that what the kid calls his or her parts is going to make a difference.
- You shouldn’t be embarrassed about these words. You know, I agree with that, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening. I don’t refer much to my “rectum” or “nipples” in public, but I’m not ashamed that I have ’em. It just doesn’t really have to come up, does it?
There are, however, plenty of real reasons in the “con” column, too:
- There’s plenty of time. We use “tummy,” “pinky,” and “po-po” to refer to the stomach, little finger, and anus. Someday we’ll replace those easy terms with the scientific terms — why should genitals be any different?
- It makes a big deal out of something that’s not that big a deal. Boo’s just not that interested in her Hoo-Hoo at this point, and explaining it to her at length (and getting her to use a two- or three-syllable word for it) seems out of proportion.
I have to say, though, I’m far from decided about this. Should my wife and I be more precise when teaching Boo words for body parts? Speak now, because whatever we teach her in the next couple of months will hold sway for most of her early life!