The Vajayjay Monologues: What do your tell your toddlers to call their parts?

by doodaddy on October 31, 2007

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!

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tagged as , in language,parentolitics ·

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie October 31, 2007 at 5:52 am

I cant’ do it – I don’t want my very verbal and articulate 3 year old spouting sentences with Penis and Vagina in it – as you say – it doesn’t need to come up.

As far as Miss E is concerned – everything is her ‘bottom’ and that works for now. I have had to come up with something for her brother since she has obviously noticed the difference and so she uses the term given to me about my brothers’ equipment – ‘toot’ – and that works great for now too. Except for when she runs into an American who uses ‘toot’ for a completely different bodily happening! Will cross that bridge when I come to it 🙂


Dawn October 31, 2007 at 10:11 am

The reasoning for the scientific names as relative to abuse is more for the reporting and questioning aspects – If a child is used to the word penis he can tell someone or answer a question about it easier than if the questioner has to look for the “right” word for penis. And sadly, if a kiddo looks confused on the stand in a courtroom it will be made to look like they are unsure about what actually happened instead of having trouble with the terminology.

We call it a penis. Specifically at every.single.diaper.change with the matter of fact “yes, there’s your penis” as grabs on for dear life. Like he’s found a long lost friend or playmate.


Tumerica November 6, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Great post, DooDaddy.

It’s such a dilemma–we have to refer to you-know-what sometimes with little ones, what with potty training, and accidents, and the reality of living in our bodies and explaining it all–as though we have some kinda monopoly on truth just because we are parents.

Anyway, I made the decision to use a cute made-up word because I didn’t want my little girl referring to her privates in public and causing embarrassment to everyone but her. So I remembered a joke where female genitals were referred to as a “twinkie,” and I just liked it, so stuck with it. Our Jaclyn says, Mama, I forgot to wipe my twinkie, or Dah-dah, I fell and bumped my twinkie. And no one is the wiser. Someday she’ll snigger when she can read and sees the actuall cream-filled chocolate cakes by the same name. But a sweet word is a good word, I thought.

Now we have the word vajayjay, and while I don’t love this word particularly, it does have a nice va-va-voom factor, and at LEAST it’s a positive word. English-speaking gals have needed a word like this for a long time. Lord knows, men have PLENTY of them to choose from!

And that brings me to how to explain the birds and the bees to a little kid. I told my four-year-old that men have seeds and women have eggs and that if a man’s seed and a woman’s egg get together successfully, they can make a baby in the woman’s tummy. Best I could come up.


Pivotalrole April 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Our son is barely 12 weeks old and my wife and I had a brief discussion about this just a few days ago. I believe that taking the mystery and embarrassment out of the equation will be of the greatest benefit in the long run. Obviously pronunciation will be a factor (less so for a boy, perhaps) and it may need to be shortened to “pee-pee” for a bit but that won’t stop us from gently correcting him and helping him work out the correct term of penis. I think we have enough difficulty deciding which truths of the world to allow in to our child’s psyche without complicating a simple piece of anatomy with terms like “wieners” and “cookies”. When he gets older he can call it what he likes but I don’t want him to do it out of self embarrassment or his parent’s inability to handle the subject. I don’t relish the thought of embarrassing bystanders with random exclamations, but an occasional, anatomically correct, genital reference in public should make us all consider growing up a little bit.
While seeking opinions I came across postings elsewhere talking about the distinction of parts, particularly with girls. Vagina vs. vulva…urethra, etc. and penis/scrotum, testicles, etc. I think “penis” and “vagina” will serve just fine as general terms until more specificity is called for.


Dave May 28, 2008 at 12:03 pm

We take a pretty simple but not very silly approach to this:

Boy parts
Girl parts

Why? Let’s take a real world example.
I am using a publich restroom while a little kid is in a nearby stall chanting “penis penis penis”. Those words are just too fun and unique to say for kids so they love to sing them… ALL THE TIME. Boy parts and girl parts are still descriptive enough, and if there ever was a trial for child molestation with my kid you bet they’d be taught what the real words were. Right after I beat the living crap out of whoever was at fault.


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