Honeypot, Flaps, Twat: Nicknaming a Vagina Is Tricky Business

The problem with the word "vagina" is that vaginas seem to be just straight-out bad luck. Only a masochist would want one, because only awful things happen to them. Vaginas get torn. Vaginas get "examined." Evidence is found in them. Serial killers leave things in them, to taunt Morse — like they're the shelf in the hallway, where you leave your keys and spare change. No one wants one of those.

No. Let's clear this up right now — I don't actually have a vagina. I never have. Indeed, I reckon very few women ever have. Queen Victoria, obviously. Barbara Castle. Margaret Thatcher. With the pubic hair styled, of course, in an exact replica of that on her head.

But everyone else — no. Because I'm scarcely the only one. No one I know would refer to their vagina as their "vagina." They have slang names, pet names, made-up names — family names for the front parlor that have been passed down from generation to generation. When I asked on Twitter for people's childhood appellations, I got over 500 replies in 20 minutes —a great percentage of them totally, dementedly barking. It was like I'd opened up a Pandora's Box of Minge. The first one I got set the tone: "My childhood best friend's mum referred to it as 'ducky,' and periods as 'duck's disease.'"

This is, clearly, a train of thought uninterrupted — possibly for generations — by any outside influence. It's lexical inbreeding. The range was immense. Some were quite lovely and/or amusing: your flower, your tuppence, pickle, tissy, Mary, flump, putt, tuchas, minny, pum-pum, tinkle, fairy, foof, my lady, woo-woo, bits and pieces, muffin, cupcake, and pocket.

Then there were ones that were clearly the result of some family in‑joke: Valerie, Aunty Helen, pasta shell, bumgina, fandango, Yorkshire pudding ("She would cry, 'I've got sand in my Yorkshire!'"), Under Henge, and Birmingham City Centre. And then there were the downright bizarre and/or worrying: Your difference, your secret, your problem, Sweet Fanny Adams (nickname of a murdered Victorian child; not a great day at the Vagina Imaginarium, all told), and vent. I can only presume "vent" was the product of a family that kept snakes and wanted to use the same word across species, to save time.

Across the range, it was interesting to note the appearance of la‑la, tinky, and po — meaning almost the entire cast of Teletubbies appear to be based on familial slang words for "vagina." I suppose you have to get your inspiration from somewhere.

I, personally, have a cunt. Sometimes it's "flaps" or "twat," but, most of the time, it's my cunt. Cunt is a proper, old, historic, strong word. I like that my fire escape also doubles up as the most potent swear word in the English language. Yeah. That's how powerful it is, guys. If I tell you what I've got down there, old ladies and clerics might faint. I like how shocked people are when you say "cunt." It's like I have a nuclear bomb in my underpants or a mad tiger, or a gun.

Compared to this, the most powerful swear word men have got out of their privates is "dick," which is frankly vanilla and, I believe, you're allowed to use on children's TV if something goes wrong. In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing and/or weak — menstruation, menopause, just the sheer, simple act of calling someone "a girl" — I love that "cunt" stands, on its own, as the supreme, unvanquishable word.

It has almost mystic resonance. It is a cunt — we all know it's a cunt — but we can't call it a cunt. We can't say the actual word. It's too powerful. Like Jews can never utter the tetragrammaton — and must make do with "Jehovah" instead. Often — after walking into a woodland clearing and partaking of a ceremonial pipe among tribefolk — I have reflected that working out what to call your genitals is a formal rite of passage for a girl. As significant as menarche, or assessing if you can style out dungarees or not. When "fingering" starts at school — I believe around 12 these days; it appears to be the slightly more grown-up version of a toddler's implacable desire to jam their fingers into DVD players — it's important a girl starts thinking exactly where she's being fingered. Although "inside me" is a fair enough starting point, it is, essentially, a direction or a command — not a name.

These days, in a world where adolescents get all their sex education from pornography, Adam may have named the animals, but Ron Jeremy names the vaginas. As one might expect, when one leaves the choice of words to porn stars who are improvising the dialogue during a double-penetration scene, not much thought, delicacy, or aesthetic goes into it.

As a result, there is a whole generation of girls growing up whose go‑to phrase for their genitalia is "pussy." Personally, I dislike "pussy." I've heard "pussy" referred to in the third person too many times in porn films for it to seem like a joyful or fun word. "Your pussy likes that, doesn't it?" "Shall I give this to your pussy?"

It's got all that unpleasant physical-disconnect bullshit — women separated from their vaginas — that I find un‑hot in bad pornography, PLUS it gives the constant, unsettling impression that the gentleman might actually be referring to the woman's cat, which is sitting just out of camera shot, glaring balefully.

One day, I think idly, all the cats who are watching porn being made will rise up, revolted by all the uncouth dialogue ostensibly being aimed at them, wander onto the set, and ostentatiously vomit up a hairball in the middle of some bumming.

But, let's be honest, "pussy" is the least of it. There is a panoply of slang words that are, in their ways, just as truly awful as "vagina." Let's bullet point!

  • Your sex: sounds like a preemptive attempt to shift blame.
  • Hole: a bad thing that can happen to stockings or tights. My Johnnylulu is a GOOD thing that happens to stockings and tights.
  • Honeypot: inference of imminent presence of bees.
  • Twat: an unpleasant mélange of cow-pat, stupidity, and punching. No.
  • Bush: the band of the same name are tiresome. The vegetation has spiders. No.
  • Vag: sounds like the name of a busybody battleaxe, à la "Barb" and "Val." Suggestion also of chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, and borderline addiction to bingo. No.
  • On the other hand, ones I do like:

  • Minge: sounds a bit like a slightly put-upon cat. Sometimes mine feels like that.
  • Flaps: amusing.
  • Foof: pampered, slightly ridiculous French poodle.
  • The Saarlac Pit: endless resonance, not least because, however much it wants Han Solo inside it, it never quite gets him.
  • Of course, once you start with the silly names for your number one vestibule, there's no real reason to stop.

    "It's all going off at West Midlands Safari Park and Zoo," I will say ruefully, sitting on the toilet during an attack of cystitis. "The tree has been struck by lightning in Tom's Midnight Garden." On other, happier days, one can comment, "The mist is really rolling in on the Mull of Kintyre tonight."


    This post is an excerpt from Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman, a UK bestseller that is finally available for our grubby little American hands. You should buy it, as it is fan-fucking-tastic.

    Republished with permission.