Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Naming the Body Survey

An interesting conversation came up between Jon and I the other day about the names we use for body parts with our children. Jon feels like we are not consistent in our philosophy on body part naming and thought it should be examined a little more closely. We have made a conscientious effort to call the penis by its anatomically correct name. But, Jon pointed out, we refer to other body parts (i.e. breasts) as something else--"nursies". Jon pointed out that maybe it was kind of weird to not have a cute name for the penis since we use a cute name for breasts. The "V" word has never come up because there are too few of them around to be noticed.

The boys are at an age where things like "You just hit me in the penis!" (like when kids are horsing around) are likely to get blurted out. In public. Jon thought it might be weird for Ewan to be at school and to blurt that out--should it happen to him. So the question becomes what is more appropriate to blurt out in public? "You hit me in the pee-pee!" or "You hit me in the penis!" Jon thinks that even if we're ok with the scientific name that it might make others feel uncomfortable. But I don't think the scientific names should be uncomfortable, so I like to push it a little.

In the beginning of anatomical body part naming I thought it would be more appropriate to call body parts by the correct names so as not to promote discomfort at saying what they really are. I think it is weird that we as a culture are so uncomfortable saying the words "penis" and "vagina"--although I think the nicknames for them are funny (Hoo-ha and VaJayJay, for example). But then I started referring to my breasts as "nursies" because well, that is what the boys see me doing with them and it just kind of came out.

So, I'm curious, what do you think? What do you do/will you do in your homes? Do you/will you call the special parts by their real names or do you use nicknames for them? Why or why not?

p.s. I noticed that I did actually call them "private parts" when I taught the boys about telling us if someone tries to touch them inappropriately. So, I'm still working this out...

13 comments:

Jenny said...

I think it's okay to use the nicknames for the body part as long as you use the real name too. Because really in conversations with people we don't always use the same words to name things ALL the time. Sometimes I refer to my breasts as boobs, and sometimes I say breasts. Sometimes I say penis and sometimes I say pee-pee. And I've noticed Joaquin does the same thing. I've heard him use both penis and pee-pee to refer to his or other boys' penises.

Mie said...

We haven't really had too many opportunities to choose penis vs something else yet. We use "boobie" for nurse...or we did until two weeks ago!!! Anyway, that means nurse and that will specifically mean nurse for future kiddos...we won't teach him to call breasts boobs. The only other one that we have used is bottom and I am VERY particular about that one rather than butt. Somehow he's still learned butt though. We use "pee pee" but only to refer to urinating.

amelia said...

We don't use butt either. We use bum or bummie just cuz it sounds nicer.

Anonymous said...

We use nicknames mostly. "Bottom" rather than "buttocks" is a given. We say boobies or breasts, sometimes "chest." There's boy private parts and girl private parts. I'm fine with my kids knowing the anatomically correct names, but even I don't really use them in real life conversation. So, I don't intentionally do it with my kids either. Kinda like Jenny, I even use different names at different times. We'll see how it all goes once my little boy starts potty training, though. !
-monica

Jenny said...

You know it's funny to learn how many people have an aversion to the word butt. We call it butt and so do the kids (well the kid who can talk). I've never thought twice about it. Butt is just what I've always called it. I wonder if people are offended or shocked when my kid uses the word. hmmm.....

amelia said...

i think the aversion is because so many people use it in a crude way. there is something a little taboo about it. when the kids hear someone say "butt" in a movie it usually gets a little giggle.

Mie said...

I'm not offended when anyone uses it...I just thinks it sounds harsh. I think everyone has a little reaction to some words that just makes them wince. Growing up I had someone always correcting me to say "yes" instead of "yea" or "yep" because it grated on her not to use 'yes'. Funny enough...I don't like the word 'bum' either. No reason...just grates on me for some weird reason. :)

mommyof5 said...

Just stoped by to say hi. Thank you for your comment on the nursing and biting question. I saw that you had a blog. And wanted to check it out. Come check mine out if you get a a chance.

Mommy of 5

mommyof5 said...

My baby will be 1 on August 30th. He is doing the army crawling too. Just started about 1 1/2 weeks ago. He finally starting sitting himself up last week. We found out the snakes weren't rattled snakes but instead rat snakes. But they had a fake rattle on them.
How old are your 3 boys? Do you planning on having more?

Mommy of 5

mamabrown said...

It is always interesting to me to see what words people use in naming body parts because there are so many names for gender-specific body parts. Determining just what feels comfortable to you, your family, and culture is worthy of a good discussion. Most parents don't want their children to use inappropriate language when refering to body parts. However, children have a way of picking up "strange" language from anyone that can impress them with shocking words that cause a sensation when said.

The Herd said...

We have used "girl parts" and "boy parts" and have seemed to be fine...no awkward moments. If we are talking about not letting someone touch them...we speak more about privacy...and their bodies...I don't want to go with the specific names yet--I wouldn't mind telling them if they asked, but I have a niece who has said some pretty embarrasing things b/c my bro and his wife use the med. correct terms...(my sister in law is in medicine)...it creates very awkward moments.
I think it would be hard to back track without explanation of what is appropriate.
So, there you go, that's what the Bulls do:)

Lauren said...

we use the correct names..."penis" and since quinn sees me naked, "vagina". He has taken to calling his, "pee-pee" (which he gets from the fact that that is where pee pee comes from). Which sort of tells me that he can come up with his own names for these parts. Butt can be "butt" "bum" "tookus" or some other thing and breasts are "boobs", or as Quinn as developed, "boobies". Anyway, I don't think it really matters and I don't think it'll scar them one way or the other. If they get hit in the penis and say, "ow, you hit my penis" they may get teased a little and then call it something else. No biggie. I think that we try to sheild our children way to much from even the smallest altercation...it's just impossible. I'd go with anatomically correct and let them figure it out as they grow; I agree with you that I don't want my children to be afraid of "penis" or "vagina" and maybe they can teach their friends something.

ceciliabrie said...

It's interesting to me to discuss using the correct names for anatomy, but still using nicknames like "pee-pee." What i remember from my childhood was my parents (or dad, rather) insisting on the scientific words for the bodily function--urinate and bowel movement. And i have to say, using those words just made me embarrassed! So now as a grown up i say pee and poop or #2, which were terms i really only felt i had the freedom to use later...funny.

If you haven't seen or read _The Vagina Monologues_, you might be interested in the interviews there. Warning: a couple of them are pretty explicit about sex (hetero- and homo-, and abuse), but most of them are just women's musings on this very thing--the impact of the words we use on the way we understand and respect (or disrespect) the body that we live in--and other people's bodies.