Renaming Body Parts


It’s time we had an overhaul of the English language. Not a complete overhaul. Most of the words I’ve used so far in this column are pretty much OK. But I think we need to rename a handful of nouns that refer to parts of the body. Specifically, I think we should rename those nouns that refer to rude parts of the body.

I’m not saying this just to be glib. I write erotic fiction. I take pleasure from words and blending the physicality of real experience with the fictional fallacy of illusion.

But I have problems with nipples.

Nipples, as a piece of flesh, are lovely things. I’m a big fan. I’ve got a couple myself and I adore them. I’ve known other people with nipples and I have to say I think they’re wonderful. But they’re called ‘nipples.’ Is that just the stupidest name for one of the human body’s most adorable artefacts? It’s like being blessed with a beautiful baby girl and christening her Grunt, Splatter or Archibald.

Legs are commonly known as legs. I think we all knew that before I wrote that expository sentence. But ‘legs’ is a good enough word for them. You hear the word ‘legs’ and you don’t giggle. Arms, feet, hands, head, appendix scar… the list could go on for all the well-named parts of the body. And no one would ever laugh.

But say the word ‘nipple’ and someone is bound to smirk. I advocate that we change the word immediately.

I think we should also change cocks. That word has never worked for me and it no longer works for me today – although the transition has been a 180 reversal.

Whenever I read the word ‘cock’ as a small child, especially if it was written in all innocence and referring to farmyard poultry, I would chuckle. “The farmer got woken up by a cock.” It was the sort of sentence that would have me wheezing for oxygen as I envisioned a farmer being roused from his sleep by the prodding and probing of a disembodied penis. Nowadays, whenever I read the word ‘cock’ in a piece of erotic fiction, I find myself thinking of poultry. “She took his cock in her hand and squeezed…” In my mind’s ear, I can barely hear the poor thing clucking in poultry-style protest for the sound of my own manic laughter.

So nipples and cocks are out. And most of the variations on cock don’t seem to have any true relationship to their referent. Penis is clinical and unpleasant. That final sibilant seems to hiss like a one-eyed trouser snake. And one-eyed trouser snake is not a suitable synonym either. Nob is hateful because it sounds so tragically short. We men are all size-obsessed and a word that makes our main underpants filler sound insignificant is not going to win any votes. Wang just sounds silly – and too close to ‘wank’ to be considered as a viable alternative. So it’s agreed that we need to rename cocks.

Rectum leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Admittedly, we’re talking about bum holes here, which do tend to leave a nasty taste, but the word ‘rectum’ itself is a horrible piece of verbiage. Ass and arse are both fine as terms for the buttocks. Buttocks just sounds like a cut of meat, so I don’t care for that word. But otherwise I’m OK discussing a character’s behind. I never use the word ‘fanny’ but that’s because I live in the UK and it has an entirely different meaning over here. Yet it’s impossible to sensibly discuss that little spot in the middle: the place where the sun don’t shine.

Anus and Sphincter don’t sound pleasant. That wasn’t meant to be a farting gag. I mean the way the words sound when you say them aloud. I don’t mean that they make trumpeting noises after excessive amounts of cabbage or cauliflower. Looking at the way those two names sit on the page, it could be the name for a firm of financial specialists: Anus & Sphincter – mortgage brokers.

So, that’s another part of the body desperately in need of rebranding. (Rebranding, that is, in the marketing sense of the word, and not ‘branding again’ with a red hot poker/branding iron.)

Clitoris is ok, I think. I’m a man so my chances of finding one in the real world, let alone feeling the need to describe it in detail, are minimal.

However, I think that vagina will have to go. There’s something about the central consonant (a palato-alveolar lenis consonant, to be specific) that makes it sound unpleasant. The j sound in the centre of va-j-ina is the same grungy phoneme found in words like dirge, sludge and whinge. And I’m sure that no one wants something reminiscent of sludge in the middle of their va-j-ina.

None of the current alternatives to vagina is acceptable. I’ve come to associate the C-word with a former employer. He remains the biggest example of a C-word I’ve ever encountered. I don’t like the word ‘pussy’ for the same reasons I have reservations about the word ‘cock.’ The scope for confusion sends my adolescent brain into giggling fits. Minge, clunge and fun-bucket are also unacceptable alternatives. The va-j-ina has to go.

As do testicles.

Are you ticklish? Would you like me to give you a test-tickle?

I know it’s a wanky gag, but it’s the one that runs through my misshapen head every time I hear the word testicles: hence the smirk. Balls is just disconcerting. I hear the word ‘balls’ and I think of footballs, medicine balls and beach balls. I don’t think of a dangly pink sac hidden beneath a carpet of matted pubes. Gonads, nads, knackers and ‘the-spunk-brothers’ are all terms that are either too medical, colloquial or just plain scary.

So, if we’re all agreed, the body parts that need renaming include nipples, vagina, rectum, cock and testicles. Ideally we should be numbering these parts, although that could lead to endless confusion if we’re not all working from the same list. “He stroked his tongue against her number two whilst she squeezed both his fives.

So, if you have an alternative word that you think would be better than the one of the current bunch of inappropriate labels, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Ashley Lister
March 2010

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