I've always found the word "speculum" really disgusting. Not the device, although that's no picnic, but the word itself. Here's why:
My mom orders a lot of scientific supplies as part of her job, so when I was growing up, we tended to store things in cardboard boxes marked "glass pipette large" or "desiccator jar." Then there was "vaginal speculum 144 count." To this day, I have no idea why Mom had a box that once held vaginal speculums (specula?). Her work did not involve vaginas. What I do know is that when the time came to move, smack in the awkward middle of my adolescence, she packed a bunch of Doctor Who videos in that speculum box and had the movers carry it right into our living room. My adult self probably wouldn't have cared that much, but 15-year-old me was totally mortified that the movers thought we owned a full gross of vagina devices.
Gross here is pretty apt. While much of my distaste for the word speculum comes from this formative experience, and some of it comes from the pelvic exams that came later, I still find the word pretty upsetting on its own. To me it sounds like some sort of buildup you scrape off your teeth, or the ooze from an alien pod that turns you into a vine monster (this actually happens in one of the aforementioned Doctor Who episodes, although no specula are involved). As it turns out, many words for women's hygiene and health products come with a certain gross-out factor, independent (we think) of their function. Below, a sampling of our unfavorites.
Yaz: sounds like a noise you make while barfing
colposcopy: something bad's going on with the "colpo-" here. Kind of sounds like a sea creature.
Pap smear: says Dodai, "sounds like they are going to take out some pustules and spread them on a bagel."
diaphragm: Hortense explains, "It sounds like a bad cold, or bronchitis, or something." She even offers a sample sentence: "I couldn't go out last night because I had an awful case of diaphragm."
Diva cup: this one is divisive. Jessica says, "I'm afraid to put anything named 'diva' near my vagina." But Katy disagrees: "I do, however, like Diva Cup. My friend (who is a feminist rapper) wanted to change her name to Moon Rag. I always thought Diva Cup and Moon Rag would be a rad musical duo." Much better than Diva Cup and Pap Smear.
Image via drugstore.com.