Thursday, September 3, 2015

7 Words We Don’t Say in Public…but should

I’ve had George Carlin on the brain lately.  After finding his classic bit about “too much stuff” on YouTube a couple weeks ago (when I was writing my Year in the Rear-View Mirror post),  I was recalling another one of his classic routines today, and yep, it was there on YouTube too—the 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television.  


Americans and their euphemisms was a constant treasure trove of great material for Carlin.  If a word was too uncomfortable or impolite to say directly on a 1950’s TV show, then gee wiz by golly, we had to come up with a euphemism for it!

More than half a century later, our culture today is much looser with its public language (many would argue to detriment of our English language).  Yet, there are still subjects that seem to instantly bring out the “awkward, nervous, inner teen” no matter how old we are.

Polite discussion of female genitalia ranks high on that list.

Rather than say one of THOSE words, we substitute cute names like Hoo-Hahs, Vajayjays, and Babymakers instead.

There was a great New York Times article a few years back that chronicled how the term “vajayjay” got popularized. The writers of the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” had previously included the word “penis” over a dozen times in one particular episode without any cause for concern by network executives. But when a later episode wished to use the word “vagina,” the television standards police arm-twisted for a less explicit term, and thus “vajayjay” was born.

Forty-one years ago this month, in September 1974, First Lady Betty Ford brought breast cancer to the forefront of public discussion like it never had been before.  At the time, it was a disease that women rarely discussed outside the home.  Never before had such a prominent public figure shared publically such intimate details of her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy and treatment.


Fellow #GynCAN blogger Nicole wrote a great post this week about A Conversation That Matters-- that it’s well beyond time to end the stigma of discussing cancers of our other female genitalia in public.

I could not agree more!

So this month, there’ll be no talk of vajayjays, hoohahs, or other pussyfooting substitutes.  These real 7 cancer site words are far too important to hide beneath the veils of shyness and secrecy any longer:  Vagina, Vulva, Uterus, Cervix, Ovaries, and Fallopian Tubes

Challenge yourselves to use each of these 7 words in public conversation this month— maybe discuss one of these posts (or convey some interesting tidbit you’ve learned from searching “#GynCAN” on Facebook or Twitter, or from reading one of the cancer reference websites).

Let the conversations begin!

Thrive SM Post (1)


  1. Lynne, you never cease to amaze me--and to crack me up!--with your strong will and sense of humor! But I absolutely agree that the idea of euphemizing the biological names for body parts is one of the craziest things, not just in relation to the cancer issues you discuss, but totally. I remember when our daughter was just a baby and we went through the little games of teaching her the names of body parts, asking her to point to her nose, ears, toes, etc. and yes, her vagina, she came to see this is just another body part, not a part that is dirty, embarrassing, etc. But I still remember an instance when she was about 4 or 5 and the parents of a girl her age called us very upset that she had said this "vulgar" word! I applaud your campaign to get people to just talk frankly and accurately about the body--especially when it comes to something as serious as cancer. You go girl!!

    1. What a wonderful story Jack! Wish all of us could have been raised that way. I think my grandmother went to her grave after 90+ years having never wore a pair of pants in her life....and never uttering these 7 words at home or in public.

  2. Hi Lynne, this is going to be a great month of reading. I will share this blog again.
    You rock!

  3. Two lads see a sign that says Volvo says to the other "ain't that part of a woman's hoohah"? Just had to share that bit with you :) thank you for your blogs on this subject - we ALL need to be more aware of these health issues.

    1. Ha ha! Yes, we must give great credit to the Swedes for their vulva awareness-raising campaign every time we pass by a dealership!

  4. Excellent post today. I totally agree with you, as long as we continue to use other terms for our gynecological parts there will always be a type of shame associated with them. 25 years or so I applauded my sister for teaching her children the proper terms, other family members thought it was atrocious. Unfortunately a lot of people feel the same today.

  5. With my Endo cancer this past year my husband can now say uterus. Way to go honey!!!


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