2 June 2018

Terminology

Back in the fifties and sixties, families employed their own intimate vocabularies for referring to genitalia and certain natural bodily functions. It was as if the real, scientific terminology was somehow taboo and might pollute the minds of innocent sons and daughters.

It is almost eleven years since my dear mother died. She was the number one domestic enforcer when it came to language use in our home. My father took more of a back seat on this. As the headmaster of the village school next door he probably got tired of correcting little boys. Anyway, as I say, eleven years have passed - enough time to spill the beans.

Everybody needs to urinate every day. In my East Yorkshire home you did not urinate or go for a piss, you went for a "tinkle"! And when you needed to defecate you went for a "bobby". You didn't fart, you "popped" or "trumped" and if you were heard making this discordant music you were supposed to say "Pardon me". Many is the time our mother snarled "What do you say?" 

I grew up with three brothers so there was no need to invent an alternative word for "vagina" because as far as we knew vaginas did not even exist. Perhaps if we  had had a sister good alternative names for "vagina" might have been "bajingo" or "doo-dah".

The most embarrassing term we were expected to use? We replaced the word "penis" with "poppy". I kid you not. Poppy! Even now during the run up to Remembrance Sunday I hesitate to look in a poppy seller's tray but naturally I always wear my poppy with pride!

We were of course aware of breasts but they weren't called breasts, they were "bosoms". When I was about nine years old and increasingly inquisitive Mum admitted that females did not have poppies, they had holes that babies came from. One morning in the bathroom as she was dressing I asked to look at her baby hole but  blushingly she refused and was uncharacteristically tongue-tied. I had no idea why.

Raising our own children we were sensitive about language use when it came to genitalia and excretion. No longer was a poppy a poppy, it was a penis once more and the would-be "bajingo" became a vagina again. I wanted to refer to defecation as "shitting" but she insisted on the more widespread "going for a pooh", Similarly, I would have voted for "urinate" but instead we had "wee-wee".

What about the terminology that was used in your childhood home?

33 comments:

  1. I'm not spilling the beans. I may be the last of the Mohicans as far as my family is concerned, and as far as the terminologies used therein, but the secrets remain safe with me! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's one of the last taboos.

      Delete
    2. Anyway, I'd probably get jumped upon by some if I did divulge! ;)

      Delete
    3. Was it a duck billed platypus?

      Delete
  2. I will be honest with you- I just now this second realized that I do not think that there WERE any words for vagina or penis in my house. It's as if they simply did not exist. And I had a brother! Best just not to think of these things, right? Which of course made it incredibly easy for a molester to do what molesters do and to get away with it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How surprising that you had no words. But I guess that many families were like that. Best not to talk about these things.

      Delete
  3. Well, that went to a dark place quickly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I must add: I usually wake up in the middle of the night here on the north shore of the Long Island Sound which is why I keep my iPad on the night table so I can look up the latest news from Yorkshire, where it is not the middle of the night but in fact a bright new morning. So I was reading this post at some ungodly hour in the pre-dawn, and I got to your third-to-last sentence and I laughed so hard I woke up my husband.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please give my apologies to your husband for his rude awakening. I am glad I provided you with a chuckle to start your day Vivian.

      Delete
  5. We had two sons and a daughter and like you used the correct name for these things but my great aunt used to tell the boys they had a penis and tentacles. I kid you not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Our parents used mostly the proper words when we were little, we did not make up our own. They did say (and we still do) pipi (peepee) for urinating, but so do millions of Germans; it is not a hiding word.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is an island off the coast of Thailand called Koh Phi Phi but it is pronounced Koh Pipi. I wonder if this has some connection with German visitors.

      Delete
  7. I can't honestly remember, but I don't think there were any names at all when I was young. Being an only child, with older parents, I don't think the subject of names was ever broached !
    Not having had children, the subject never came up after I was married either !
    Have I missed some important part in my development do you think !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have missed nothing CG.And it's not too late to invent your names for these things.

      Delete
  8. I swear.....you have been hangin' with John Gray for way too long! Did he put you up to this post?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was all my own unaided work PTGAWS!

      Delete
  9. Dagnabit! I was so taken by "Peace Thyme Garden and Weather Station" that I went to her blog to see what she had to say. Nothing! Now I've forgotten what YOUR blog post was about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's part of the ageing process Mr C!

      Delete
  10. now you have me thinking! I really can't remember. Breasts were breasts. Boys had penises. I don't remember doing anything more specific in the bathroom than "go to the toilet"
    I don't know what we called vaginas (or vulvas as the external bits are more correctly called) Maybe there was no name?
    Also, nobody farted. Ever. so it didn't need a name

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Australians don't fart? Now I understand why you have those dangling corks on your hats!

      Delete
  11. I remember my Mum calling my downstairs my Nanny and Toms brother called ladies vagina's Woolly Bullies.
    I'm blushing whilst writing this as I am just an old fashioned girl. lol
    Briony
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wasn't there a hit song called Woolly Bully? I believe it was recorded by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs.

      Delete
  12. Oh boy! These comments will be interesting and quite unique as I think most families coined their own terms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true Red but most have the commenters above have been too shy to share those family terms.

      Delete
  13. Thanks to you and this post, I will never think of the song, “Camptown Ladies sing This Song, Doodah, Doodah” in quite the same way ever again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha-ha! That's very funny Rhymes With Rock!

      Delete
  14. We did wees and "passed motions". Yes, my mum was very proper. Now and then we passed wind. All girls in my family, so penises simply did not exist. After our baths, Mum used to tell us to make sure we dried our "folds" properly.

    Years later I often used to look after my niece, who was allowed to say poo, or so I thought. One day after using the toilet she asked me to clean her bottom, so I innocently asked her had she done a poo poo.
    She stuck her tiny nose in the air and said, "We don't say that in our house."
    So of course I enquired the nature of the appropriate term,thinking maybe my sister had moved onto the lofty "motion" - surely not - but no.
    Little madam announced with full gravitas, "It's a pooey!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing this intimate story Rozzie. Seems like sheepfolds could have two different meanings.

      Delete
  15. My parents used to say pipì and popò (wee wee and poo poo), pisellino (small peapod) for penis and patatina (potato chip) for vagina.
    Greetings Maria x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing these words Maria. The sounds of your Italian terms are so pleasant - innocent sounding words.

      Delete
  16. Ha! Yeah, we had some domestic terminology too. My favorite is our word for throwing up -- "urpee." Why we couldn't just say vomit, I'm not sure.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wee wee or poo or number ones or number twos!

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.