A Vagina by Any Other Name

By Elle Mason


Vagina.  Yes, that word.  It is evoked rarely in conversation and when it is, it is spoken hesitantly, uncomfortably, most often reserved for the privacy of the doctor’s office … you know (said in a hushed whisper), the one with the stirrups.  “Vagina” as a name doesn’t feel right, like the word is completely wrong for what it is meant to describe. Like when you meet someone whose name does not seem to match her personality.  Say a Frank who looks more like a Sam, or a Jane who should be a Kate.  Names personify the very people or things they are attached to.  They evoke a clear image or the essence of a “thing”. In the case of the v-word, the name-choosers missed the mark.

When I hear the word “vagina” I think of secret things, dark and unspeakable things. It’s rugged, mountainous, full of consonants creating images of harsh and inhospitable terrain. “Gentlemen, I must warn you, keep your wits about you whence you enter the territory of the Vagina.  None but the bravest among you shall return!”  Only Borat’s pronunciation, in the movie of the same name, “Vagine” (said with a soft, reverential French accent) can soften the brutishness of the word.

So turned off are we by this word that, as a culture, we manipulate it, change it to cuter, more palatable words that are less populated with unfriendly “Vs” and “Gs”.   Perhaps this word has tolerated too many negative stereotypes over time; perhaps as a woman, when I hear the v-word I am reminded of them, and the insecurities that go along with them: the doctor’s probing.

It makes sense that the name for this incredible (and most sought after) body part was provided by men from a long lost time — the same men who believed that the uterus floated about the female body until settling in the location of a woman’s given malady. That same uterus, were it starved of sustenance or semen (how clever these men were!), would cause female hysteria to set in.  Their distaste and overt primness haunts the word to this day!

In Latin, “vagina”, which originated somewhere in the late 1600s, means “sheath” or “scabbard” (something one would slide a knife or sword into when done killing people with it); a wrap-around storage device, if you will.  It was thought to be slang in those days, and eventually moved to formal adoption in later years.  If we prefer, the botanical origination of the v-word evokes greater grace and beauty; it is the point at the base of a leaf where the stem joins the plant.

Like a community park whose namesake is long dead, this body part is overdue for renaming!  I propose, therefore, that we rename the vagina using a much more palatable word.  A softer more equivocal word, one that resonates with the best virtues this blessed body part possesses; one less likely to be avoided in polite conversation.  One we would speak openly, happily, so loving the word, we might even overuse it.

The new name must evoke pleasurable feelings like the word “chocolate” or comfort like “fuzzy slippers”.  The mere mention of the word should relax us and remind us of all the good things the vagina does, not all the icky things historically associated with it.

Here is a sampling of the new names I’ve pondered:

1.  Shenis:  Like the male counterpart, but more obviously female.
2.  Lovey:  Like a small child’s security blanket — what greater comfort could a word connote?
3.  Missliscious:  Takes away the “ick” factor.
4.  Cozylala:  Both warm and whimsical like a feminine protection commercial.
5.  Delores:  A cousin of Clitoris.
6.  Excipite:  “Welcome!” in Latin.
7.  Pulchra:  “Beautiful” in Latin. (There are so many other positive Latin names available!)

As I pondered all of these possibilities, trying hard to stay away from common slang or terms with negative connotation (I admit it was difficult to find a word that embodied the plethora of characteristics I was trying to capture), I considered linguistic origin, consonant structure and the myriad other traits a word might present when mouthed.  The more I thought about it, the more one name kept returning to my mind.  I dismissed it at first, but the thought grew persistent, and thus it gradually grew on me.

This name is currently possessed by an embodiment of the feminine.  At once strong and independent coupled with a balance of softness and invitation: “Scarlett Johansson”

What do you think? Isn’t it perfect! Try it on for size, say it a few times and feel how easily it rolls off your tongue.  Scarlett is synonymous with color, a vibrant and lively red.  Johansson is sister of Johnson.  There is strength of will and infinite delicacy bundled into perfect harmony with this simple name.

Imagine if your gynecologist were to say, “I shall now insert the speculum into your Scarlett Johansson.” I can imagine myself more able to relax, my knees easily falling open.  Or if your lover were to utter, “Darling, may I touch your Scarlett Johansson?”  I would be unable to resist, so imbued with sexuality and femininity is the name.

I am not sure how we would go about an official name change — a vote might be required.  If we were to, en masse, start using the word more commonly, it might kick-start the wheels of change, and our blessed nether regions would finally have a name worthy of all her ethereal charms.


Elle Mason is the nom de plume of the freelance blogger and writer who calls the Rocky Mountains of Colorado home.  Published online and in print, the “Tell Me Mamma” blog topics of interest include ontology, or what it is to be human, how to be your best self, and pubic hair (not necessarily in that order.)

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