Some people really hate vagina euphemisms.
I mean they REALLY hate them. Almost as much as they hate it when someone says “vagina” to mean “vulva.”
The disdain is so fierce that I’m not actually sure if anyone uses these euphemisms without irony, because anytime I’ve seen the subject come up in public discourse, there’s a massive surge of women demanding that everyone use actual medical terms for their downstairs equipment, and not to infantilize the whole deal by calling it their lovemuffin or their honeypot or their sweet bunny foo-foo or what the hell ever. It’s such an evergreen topic that HuffPo can publish a ranked list of “the worst synonyms for vagina,” apropos of nothing, and a zillion people will like it on Facebook.
I’m more partial to the hilariously gruesome options -- you’ll never convince me that “axe wound” isn’t brilliant -- but mostly I find many of the popular euphemisms sort of dull. Vajayjay and vajeen are just strange mispronunciations. Several xoJane editors have recently received a PR email extolling the virtues of wipes for your “hoo-hoo,” which, I have to be honest, made me laugh a LOT, but I can also see the side of the argument that wonders if using terms that could literally have come out of the mouths of children isn’t a weird choice for adult women.
For the most part though, my gripe is that our euphemisms are uncreative. And so, let us turn to history.
Historical euphemisms for vaginas and vulvas -- not to mention women of poor reputation, and sex itself -- were so much more interesting. Maybe it’s because people had fewer entertainment options, such that inventing new and confounding terms for impolite concepts was a fun evening well spent, or maybe it was simply that propriety meant people were more inclined to devise seemingly innocuous terms for the unspeakable. Whatever the reason, their language was simply more colorful.
Oh, what’s that? You’d like some examples? How fortunate that I have this list lying around so that I may cheerfully oblige!
The full entry for this is “nark the titter,” which meant to watch the woman. According to Farmer’s 1890 7-volume opus, “Slang and its Analogues” (available via subscription ONLY, thank you very much), titter is “the very lowest mode of describing a woman,” because teats. Titter. Get it?
“Tit,” oddly, was not a word that came into common usage until recently. Teats were the preferred expression a hundred years ago, and before.
A slut. This is in both Bailey’s 1721 “An Universal Etymological English Dictionary,” and Grose’s 1811 “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” and then AGAIN in Farmer’s 1890 “Slang and its Analogues,” which I suppose means it was a popular concept for a least a hundred and fifty years, although I haven’t been able to pin down an origin for it. We can probably use our imaginations.
I’m sure “dirty puzzle” was a heinous insult in its day, but it seems like such a classy way to impugn a woman’s virtue, by modern standards.
Fusty luggs is also from Grose, which he defines as a “beastly, sluttish woman,” but which would later come to be recognized as an insult for a fat person, specifically a fat and clumsy woman, her sluttishness left as more of an open question. The more recent spelling for this is “fustilugs,” and is understood in either iteration to be a contraction of “fusty,” meaning musty or moldy, and “lug,” as in a thing to be dragged.
Tom is an interesting case. In modern slang usage in the UK, it refers to a prostitute (and as far the internet seems to think, it probably originated as rhyming slang -- Thomas Moore = whore).
But in the Victorian era, "toms" were “masculine” or butch women. Alternatively, “in higher ranks,” -- as Ware’s “Passing English” puts it -- “one who does not care for the society of others than those of her own sex.” AKA a lesbian, or "sapphist" in the terminology of the era. “Tom” in this sense likely stems from “tomboy,” which astonishingly has been in use with its modern meaning of a young woman who is “boyish” since the end of the 16th century.
Tip The Velvet
This one is fairly well known owing to being the title of an excellent novel by Sarah Waters, although originally “tipping the velvet” referred to tongue-kissing, with mouths, and not "kissing" a lady’s front parlor, as it would come to mean many decades on.
In an interesting note, the velvet in this expression is not the vaginal jam-pot but the tongue being applied to it, at least according to Grose. Farmer also identifies a “cunnilingist” as “a man (or woman) addicted to the practice of tonguing the female pudendum.” The “addiction” angle was not Farmer editorializing, but comes from the original reference to the term, in the works of ancient Roman poet Martial, who had a lot to say on the subject (although who specifically believed only men were at risk for addiction, and that ladies could ostensibly stop anytime they wanted).
From Bailey’s “Passing English of the Victorian Era,” which bears the description, “Gruff-voiced woman, with shrieking sisterhood tendencies. Obscure erotic.” Promising, but vague.
Further research, however, finds that “hinchinarfer” is a contraction of “inch n’ a halfer.” What’s this in reference to? HER HUSBAND’S PENIS, OF COURSE. Which is apparently why she’s so gruff and shrieking.
So named for Matthias Buchinger, who rose to fame in the early 1700s as a remarkable artist and illustrator, in spite of having been born without hands or lower legs. In the “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” the term is noncommittally explained:
Matthew Buckinger [the anglicanized version of his name] was born without hands and legs; notwithstanding which he drew coats of arms very neatly, and could write the Lord's Prayer within the compass of a shilling; he was married to a tall handsome woman, and traversed the country, shewing himself [i.e. demonstrating his talents] for money.
Grose’s definition notably fails to directly connect Buchinger himself to the slang that is his namesake. It also minimizes the reality: Buchinger was actually married to at least four women over his lifetime, and had scores of mistresses. He had over a dozen children by his wives, plus an unknown number by other women.
"Buckinger’s Boot" ostensibly came about as a euphemism because he had only one complete “limb” he regularly sheathed, one might a foot in a boot -- only Buchinger stuck his dearest member in a whole bunch of vaginas.
A euphemism for that most holy of holes, the marvelous c-word. From Grose’s “1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” and repeated in “Slang and its Analogues,” the venerable “monosyllable” is the primary term for vulva/vagina.
If you research this sort of social history often, you’ll know that searching for either of these more respectable terms doesn’t result in much -- even vulva is a relatively new term in common use, preceded by “pudendum,” which was a popular word for gentialia, usually female. (Pudendum comes from the Latin verb for “to be ashamed,” which is probably not a terrifically surprising root.) In any hunt for vaginal/vulval anarchronisms, if you’re not looking for references to the “pudendum,” which was the more academic notion, you’re looking for, simply, the monosyllable.
From Brown Madam to Itching Jenny, from your parenthesis, to your parts of shame, from a journey down your peculiar river, to your penwiper, almost anything can stand in for vagina if you say it right. “Slang and its Analogues” in particular has pages upon pages of synonyms for the monosyllable, some of which I’ve reproduced here, so you’re welcome for that.
Several once-popular vag euphemisms employed references to vegetables -- cabbage, cauliflower, parsley bed, even kale, if you can believe that. Kale was once a euphemistic term for vagina. (I bet you’ll never think of a green smoothie the same way again.) Well, it turns out part of the reason for this was that “greens” was a popular term for having the sex.
Why greens? I couldn’t tell you definitively as I couldn’t find a definitive answer -- Farmer suggests it may have arisen from the Old Scots’ grette, meaning to long for, or to desire. Usage usually took the form of having or getting one’s greens, or being after one’s greens or on for one’s greens.
By the writing of the 1890 “Slang and its Analogues,” greens was such a common euphemism for sex that -- like “monosyllable” -- the definition for any sexual term referred back to to the entry for “greens” for a comprehensive collection of synonyms. Very comprehensive. Several pages of comprehesiveness. A selection:
To DANCE the blanket horn-pipe ; the buttock jig ; the cushion dance (see MONOSYLLABLE) ; the goat's jig ; the mattress jig ; the married man's cotillion ; the matrimonial polka ; ... to the tune of THE SHAKING OF THE SHEETS ; with your arse to the ceiling.... To GO ballocking ; beard-splitting ; bed-pressing (Marston) ; belly-bumping (Urquhart) ; bitching (Marston); bum - fighting ; bum-working ; bum-tickling; bum- faking ; bush-ranging ; buttock-stirring ( Urquhart ) ; bird's-nesting ; buttocking ; cock-fighting ; cunny-catching ; doodling ; drabbing; fleshing it; flesh-mongering ; goosing : to Hairyfordshire ; jock-hunting ; jottling ; jumming (Urquhart) ; leather-jumming (Urquhart) ; leather-stretching ; on the loose ; motting ; molrowing ; pile-driving ; prick-scouring ; quim-sticking ; lumping ; rump-splitting ; strumming ; twatting ; twat-faking ; vaulting (Marston, etc.) ; wenching ; womanizing ; working the dumb (or double, or hairy) oracle, twat-raking ; tummy-tickling ; tromboning ; quim-wedging ; tail-twitching ; button-hole working ; under-petticoating.
And it goes on.
The truth is, people have always used euphemisms for sex, and sex parts, and slutty sexy ladies. At least in the English-speaking world, we’ve never been inclined to use the clearest, simplest language for these topics, and I don’t think it’s entirely due to their taboo nature either. I think it’s also a matter of having fun with our self-expression.
I may be partial to historical terms of filth, but I really have no room to make fun of someone who uses hoo-hoo or ha-ha or woop-woop unironically. Call it what you like. Doing so seems to be embedded in our social culture, for centuries. It’s probably not doing us any harm, even if it is occasionally annoying.
So what’s your favorite -- or least favorite -- sexy euphemisms?