There was a great photo on social media recently of a young lady taking part in a naked bike ride with the slogan “It’s just a fanny” scrawled across her torso.
Let me say right away that I admire her attitude, share her sentiments and envy her boldness. I get the message, and I wish I’d done it first—ideally some years ago, when the medium was still tightly framed.
It is a striking image in several ways: the nudity, the attractiveness of the girl and the public setting all contribute to the potency of the photograph. However, I suspect that much of its impact lies in the use of the word fanny.
Because, even today when bad language is commonplace, and even in the context of a mass nude event, an explicit reference to a vagina still causes an element of cultural discomfort.
The problem is you see, we ladies have no socially acceptable way of referring to our nether regions.
Whereas men can talk about their willy or their John Thomas without causing outrage, we ladies find it difficult to find any equivalent terms that are equally as innoffensive.
I wrote a blog post some time ago entitled “ I may be a nudist but do I have to see your penis?”, in which I had to make several references to penises (peni?). To avoid repetition I needed to find many and various synonyms, which importantly had to be unoffending.
I had no difficulty. Which wouldn’t be case if I had to write a similar article about the female anatomy.
Sadly it seems, most words for the vagina are either sexually loaded, demeaning, embarrassing, infantile or downright obscene, and not really suitable for use in polite company.
Which is a nonsense when you come to think about it. We have to call it something. We can’t go through life waving vaguely in the direction of our groin and mouthing about down there.
Which got me thinking. Just what words have we got for a vagina which we can use without causing disquiet amongst the delicately bred? Or which can be scrawled across our naked torso, in public, without getting us arrested or causing the ratepayers to write letters?
To put it another way, what words have we got that could pass the chest test?
Let’s take a look. But before we do, a couple of warnings.
Caveat 1. Although you will find nothing obscene here, you may find words that some people find vulgar and which I wouldn’t normally write – or say. Unfortunately without them, this post would be pointless. Don’t read on if you have a problem with this.
Caveat 2. Every nation and each language has a rich supply of euphemisms for the female anatomy. A complete review would fill several books, so, with apologies to to the rest of the world, I’ve limited myself to the British slang lexicon, which anyway is the only one I’m familiar with. Even this is huge, with scores of names for the vagina. Despite some of them being admittedly hilarious, they are invariably insulting, obscene, sexist or all three, and won’t be considered here. Which just leaves me with the most widely used British terms.
Here we go then. This is my highly individual and slightly irreverent exploration of female pubic terminology. Just let me take a few deep breaths, darken the room to conceal my blushes, and then we’ll dive straight in.
Let’s get the C-word out of the way first.
It is, according to Germaine Greer, the one word in the English language that retains the power to shock. Which is a pity, because it’s a good old Anglo-Saxon term with an 800 year old pedigree. In fact its root word is the Proto-Indo-European ‘cu’, one of the oldest word-sounds in recorded language. But you already knew that didn’t you?
It was originally never an obscenity but a commonplace name for the vagina, and as such was freely used by Chaucer and Shakespeare and by both sexes. Over time its meaning and use degraded, and now it has become one of the most obscene words in the English language. I’ve avoided even writing it in full because I share the view that this word has no place in society today.
Although some people swear by it.
Pussy is awful. Although it’s been used as a euphemism for a vagina for several hundred years it gained traction during the 70s boom in American porn films.
For me it will always be a porn term, laden with sexual suggestion, a cloying pet name implying something submissive and furry, purring in anticipation of being played with.
Box is equally as crass and offensive. It is insulting and misogynistic, and reduces this wonderful piece of female anatomy to the status of just a container, “a place for men to put their tools”, according to a purile witticism going around. No no no. Box just won’t do at all.
Beaver? Come on! It doesn’t even look like a beaver. Mine doesn’t anyway, and yes I’ve heard the joke about it being called a beaver because it eats wood, but that makes me dislike the term even more.
Twat sounds like a slap. It’s a hard, percussive word which doesn’t do justice to our soft feminine places but is well suited as a derogatory term for someone stupid or obnoxious. I confess that in this context it is a favourite of mine, although in the spirit of sexual equality I’m just as likely use knob instead.
Mott, quim, and others mostly ending in . . .ge are laddish words that liberally spice the macho braggadacio of immature young men. They are often overheard on the football terraces or in the pub, usually preceded by the effing adjective, and one wishes they weren’t spoken so loudly. They should not be used by respectable ladies. Or me.
Muff and bush aren’t bad, but describe a certain hirsuiteness not shared by those of the smooth persuasion. Same goes for thatch and patch. On the other hand front-bottom implies a smoothness not enjoyed by those who choose the more natural look. It’s also very clumsy and unbelievably twee and wouldn’t fit very neatly on your chest. I’m afraid none of the above will do.
Lady Garden also indicates a more natural preference, so it’s another term that doesn’t work for smoothies. Besides, it sounds just too natural, like an unkempt lawn or a patch of scrubby woodland. Not a good look.
Privates or private parts is something teachers say, and who wants to be reminded of the fearsome Miss Grundy, gym-mistress, scourge of the fifth form and, according to some of my classmates, former SS guard?
Referring to your bits is vaguely unsettling, conjuring up an image of a nasty injury in a train accident, or perhaps an operation gone wrong. Lady parts is in the same vein, suggesting a Frankenstein-like assemblage of limbs and organs culled from assorted bodies.
Fairy and foo-foo? Charming and innocent, while you’re still playing with dolls. Using it beyond the age of twelve will make you seem creepily infantile and possibly dangerous.
Thingy and Twinkle. Yuk!
Goodness. Not much luck so far. None of the above entries pass my chest test.
Thankfully the remaining words seem much more promising.
Vagina, vulva, genitals or even pudenda. Hmmm. Trouble is, as well as referring to different areas anatomically, they are a little, well, clinical. A bit like a consultation with your gynaecologist. Although vagina will probably remain the only word of choice for official or formal situations, these names are best reserved for chick conversations about your lady ailments.
Nethers (short for nether regions). A great word on the face of it, short, clean and unequivocal. I use it myself, but the drawback is that it refers to the whole undercarriage, not just the part we’re talking about. Anyway it doesn’t pass the chest test. To me it has a definite equine feel about it, and daubing It’s just my nethers across your body makes you sound like Champion the Wonder Horse.
Vaj (short for vagina of course) is not bad, and in the US a variant of this – vajayjay – is already being widely used. The trouble is that vaj sounds just a little too hip and trendy; well suited to the wine bars of Hampstead but a little out of place in the pubs of Worcestershire.
There is a bigger problem though. Vaj is similar to veg, (vegetables), which prompts some folks to come out with an appalling double-entendre each time it’s mentioned. Peeling the vaj (removing your underwear) is one of these. There are many worse examples.
Which brings me back to Fanny. It’s a good old English word with not too many rude connotations. As a bonus we Brits get a cheap laugh everytime we hear our American friends mention fanny packs. The double syllable does gives it a mild shock value that can disconcert some people though.
Nearly there. I’ve used up almost all of the words I know, or that I’ll admit to knowing. Which just leaves my two joint favourites. I use either of them in preference to any other of the words we’ve reviewed and I really can’t choose between them. They both easily pass the chest test.
Foof. Yes it’s a short version of foo-foo, but unlike foo-foo it can be used without sounding like you’re suffering from immature personality disorder. It’s a soft word with no sexual connotations or demeaning imagery, and, if you think about it, is almost perfectly designed to sit symetrically across a naked female chest. I think foof is great, even though my hubby insists it sounds like a poodle with a speech impediment.
Fan. This is gentler on the sensibilities than its harder-edged long-form fanny, but retains the same meaning. It’s crisp and concise and not burdened with suggestiveness, innuendo or unpleasantness. It’s also strikingly visually descriptive, at least for those with the natural look, and lends itself to being scrawled on a naked female torso, especially if the fan itself is fan shaped. Yep, sign me up to the fan club.
So, finally there we are. My completed run down of pubic pet names. Foof and fan are the clear joint winners of the chest test, with vagina in reserve for when more gravitas is required—if I’m ever called upon to discuss genital taxonomy at the World Health Organisation or the Vatican for instance.
I hope you found it interesting, and even a little entertaining, but remember that it is my own take on the vaginal vocabulary and may differ from yours. If you have any thoughts, or other favourite names for your – whatever you call it – I’d love to hear them. But please ladies, keep them clean, keep them inoffensive, or keep them to yourself.
Above all let’s not take this too seriously.
As the young lady says, it’s just a fanny.