Calling a penis a penis
Choosing what to call body parts becomes crucial when your kid’s blurting it out in public.
When I was growing up, my mom had a fanny and my dad had goolies. We wondered around in the nude, we bathed together, we pointed and prodded and our questions regarding all the different bits and pieces were answered well and sensibly – and ultimately with a little bit of help from Des and Dawn Lindberg (remember them?).

It was an open and healthy upbringing, and I never imagined that – when my turn came – I would do it any other way.

But now that I have children of my own, I’m not entirely sure how to handle the labeling of body parts.

Penis or tortoise?

There is a school of thought that advocates telling it like it is right from the word go, using the ‘proper’ adult words to avoid confusion and stop any embarrassment over our sexual bodies before it starts. But is it just me, or do vagina and penis just sound so very serious? And, if I’m honest with myself, just a little too grown up?

So how about telling it like it (almost) is, by using one of the many euphemisms that have entered popular language? One of my friends took that route and her daughter made up a song around it, which she sang at every opportunity, to anyone who would listen – including grannies and grandpas, teachers and even the lady at the Woolies till. It went something along the lines of “dun how NIPPLE! Dun how FANNY! Dun how WILLY!”. She understood exactly which words to sing in her loudest possible ‘outside’ voice. There simply wasn’t the same emphasis on “dun how” (and no, no one knows where that came from either!).

Another option is to use a ‘family’ word, so that everyone in the inner circle understands, but those without won’t raise an eyebrow when your child demands to see ‘mommy’s flower’ at the restaurant table. Which happened to me, except that Megan told the waitress she wanted to see ‘mommy’s fanny’. That was fun.

Of course, the ‘family’ word leads to its own set of issues, as aptly demonstrated by another friend’s child. In her house, daddy’s penis was described as a ‘tortoise’. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, one evening in the bath with dad, little Georgia filled a bowl with water, set it within the tortoise’s ‘sights’ and cooed in her 2-year-old singsong voice: ‘Here tortoise torstoise, come and eat, supper is ready…’

So where to from here?

I seem to have taken a ‘laissez faire’ attitude on the subject, which basically means I’m too indecisive to make a call either way and am letting my children decide for themselves.

What do you call the private bits when talking to your children?

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