On 31 January I answered a problem from a reader asking what to call her daughter’s genitals – something that wasn’t too twee, euphemistic or overly anatomical. I asked other readers how they dealt with this; many of you replied. I forgot to ask if people minded if I used their names or not, so I’ve played it safe and made everyone fairly anonymous.
Edward was the first to write in: “I am trying to spread the use of the term ‘twinkie’. This is assonant with ‘winkie’ which is quite a good word for a penis. Another good one is the french ‘zizzi’.”
Anne said that her “daughter and her friends always referred to what you are discussing as a ‘minnie’ when they were at primary school. This was new to me, but I grew up in a different town. My mother and her mother, etc, referred to it as a ‘ha’penny’ – and generally only in the reminder to “keep yer ‘and on yer ha’penny” when unsupervised. I think this dates back to my great-grandmother, who would have been born in the 1870s or 80s.”
Lots and lots of you wrote in to suggest ‘yoni’, which is a Sanskrit word but also that used in the Kama Sutra. And more of you than I had anticipated call it a ‘front bottom’.
Helen wrote in to tell me about “some terms local to the North East, where I am a gynaecologist and obstetrician. Patients round here do use the term ‘privates’ or ‘private parts’, (and occasionally ‘Sunday face’!) or ‘down below’, but I agree these are more suited to adults than to small children. Also commonly heard are the terms ‘fairy’ (too twee?), ‘fan’ (short for fanny? a bit American, I fear) and ‘foof’, by girls and adults alike.”
Sara suggested ‘ladybits’ which I rather like. V called it ‘tweenies’ – “as a female child growing up in the 50s and 60s, my mother (who was a nurse) called mine ‘tweenies’. My sister and I think it came from between the legs.”
Cathy Keir has already blogged on the subject and referred me to her entry.
F told me about her “Austrian great grandfather, who made up the word ‘bunsie’ to refer to my mother’s private parts when she was a girl. But for some reason, I hated the sound of it; it made me cringe. I wanted to find something similarly unique, but more to my liking for our daughter. My partner and I came up with ‘mimi’. We liked it, as it sounded both cute and pretty, which is how we ultimately want our daughter to feel about her ‘bits’.”
Dominique put a French spin on it: “My sister and I are both French and married to Englishmen. We grew up calling the female private parts ‘nenette’. My grandmother (my mum’s mother) called it ‘la lune’ (the moon). I have two daughters and in our house we call it ‘nenette’. The term only refers to the part where the pee comes out. I do not use any different terms for the sex organs. I use their anatomical names.”
Angela suggested: “‘Widge’ or ‘widgie’ for a boy and ‘twimp’ for a girl are daft but popular terms used in our family to describe the unmentionables, and a friend from the past used to call hers a ‘ruminella’, but couldn’t say why. Some time ago, my sister overheard her daughter and son talking about this very subject. ‘If a boy’s willy is called a penis, what’s a girl’s thing called?’ said my niece to her younger brother. In all seriousness, he replied that it was called ‘Fine China’. Sweet.” [Think of the rhyming slang …]
A few Italians wrote in to say they’d never heard of ‘fiorella’ or ‘fiorellina’, which is what I’d mentioned in the column. There does seem to be a lot of variation as to what to call it in Italy. Robi used to call it ‘patatina’ (little potato, which is another common Italian word for vulva) and her friend used to call it ‘conchiglietta’ (little shell). Cherry’s neighbour growing up was a Jewish doctor whose daughters called theirs a ‘toshie’ which she also adopted.
But I think my favourite was Mary’s suggestion. Her daughter (two-and-a-half years old) calls hers her ‘sparkly bits’.
Nunee or noony