Children jumping in backyardGetty


So, what do your children call their 'bits'? It's the age old parenting dilemma – do you go for the anatomically correct, if somewhat clinical, vagina and penis, the more colloquial willy and fanny, or do you adopt 'pet' or cutesy names when talking to your kids?

I was always in the 'sensible and clinical' camp pre-children, simply because I was outraged that my mother could not say the 'V word' and would call the vagina a 'fairy' or, if in adult company, simply 'down below'. And always in a lowered voice and accompanied by a discreet point to the area in question.

Penises of course, did not exist in my mother's world at all, and were not mentioned until I was about 16, when one day she had reason to say 'his, erm, er, winkle' whilst flushing scarlet up her neck and onto her cheeks.

The dog, however, throughout my childhood and teenage years had a 'little dinkle' whilst other animals, male relatives and 'rude people on the television' had 'you know whats' (though only ever out of my earshot).

It drove me mad. I was well aware I had a vagina, and presumed my mother had one too. And my dad and brother and other men – be they my granddad, my uncles or those dreadful rude people on the television - were in possession of penises.

Her embarrassment annoyed and riled me and I vowed I would use the correct names with any children I ever had. And what's more, I would not blush when I said them.

Then my best friend had a baby. We'd had long discussions about anatomical versus pet names in the past. She knew of my fairy and winkle upbringing. I asked her what she would be calling her boy's bits. 'He has a Pink Wink,' she told me proudly.

Three years later, I had a baby, and, despite my earlier vows, he too ended up with a Pink Wink. It just sounded so cold and sterile and medical to say 'penis' to a tiny child. I told my friend I had stolen her terminology. She chortled and revealed she'd had to come up with more names now she had more children:

"We have Pink Winks and Mingles now. And Cut Nutlets for testicles or Frank and Beans for the whole male ensemble.'

I was impressed by her creativity and curious as to what other parents were encouraging their kids to say – was anyone going to the anatomical route?

'Girls have Foos and boys have Tails, obviously,' said Tracey, mum of Angus, eight, (tail) and Nancy and Lola, four, (foos), 'And personally, I am very proud of having a Foo.'

'I don't use pet names, says Cathy, 'But I hear a lot of 'front bottom' usage and I seem to remember my brother had a piggly when he was little...'

Dad of one Ned said his five-year-old daughter assumed everyone had the same things – 'front and bottom bottoms'. 'Boys just have longer front bottoms,' he explained.

Taking a more sensible line, my friend Mel suggested people should just go with what they are comfortable with using: 'Culturally we tend to use nicknames for these private areas, so anyone can work out what is meant no matter how obscure the word from the context. Personally I go with willy for a boy just because my husband always calls it that and that's the most common nickname for it, but wouldn't have thought twice about calling it his penis otherwise. For some reason I find vagina as a word a lot more comfortable to use and a lot less vulgar than penis so maybe that's why I didn't have a problem with it. The hard part really was explaining to son was where the wee comes out in boys and girls, not the names of the parts. He was always quite happy that boys had willies and girls had vaginas. But he was exceptionally concerned that girls didn't have willies to wee out of. I tried to explain as best I could but realise I possibly didn't do a good job when I heard him telling someone that boys had willies and girls had holes.'

My friend Francine is also a fan of 'proper names' but says their usage is not always without embarrassment:

'I sometimes regret deciding to call a spade a spade when one of the kids yells it when we're out....like my daughter shouting 'vagina' in the middle of Marks and Spencer recently...'

Sally, mum to Lucy aged four also goes the anatomical route – again with mixed success: 'Nothing will ever top the moment that Lucy was wriggling in a shop, and when asked if she was okay, told a man she hadn't used enough tissue to wipe her 'wulva', and some wee was dripping out of it...'

Yikes. Hearing that made me wonder if there was actually method in my mother's 'fairy' madness...

Do you encourage your children to use anatomically correct names for their bits?
Or are are you in Foo, Tail and Mingle camp?