I have a distinct memory of a particular eighth-grade science class in junior high, circa 1976. When a buddy of mine was called on and asked to name the male and female genitalia, he quickly responded, "The penis and the Virginia."
That's stuck with me all these years. It's a reminder of the difficulty men of all ages have had in coming up with the proper name for what's in the female zone. (I think that's been since pre-historic times, but I'm not sure.)
Funny how we've never had similar trouble with our own plumbing: pecker, johnson, shaft and rod always seem to do the trick just fine. But things have always been more complicated when it comes to women.
And not just for what we guys call it, but women's usage, too.
Vagina has always been out there, but it's never been quite right. It's uninviting, and seems to have an edge to it. There are plenty of other choices, including the dreaded c-word, which is nasty.
Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker counts at least 1,200 terms for the vagina in the history of the English language.
But we've never settled on any other.
This is why I'm among the many who've hailed the arrival of "vajayjay." Finally, we seemed to be making progress - we'd identified a word that can safely be used by men, women and children. While I knew it was gaining in usage, I didn't recognize, until I read it in Sunday's New York Times that the first media utterance of "vajayjay" came during a 2006 episode of Grey's Anatomy when a pregnant doctor told a male intern: "Stop looking at my vajayjay." The word's mainstream appeal was cemented when Oprah started using it on her program.
So far, so good.
But the Times also shed light on controversy in certain quarters. It seems like Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem are unenthused about adding "vajayjay" to the lexicon. And a Manhattan OB/GYN was actually quoted as saying the word is a step backward.
After hours of reflection, and in consultation with my man friends, I think I have it figured out.
Pardon my directness, but I refuse to beat around the bush. The feminists, it seems, have a proprietary interest in female genitalia.
No matter what you call it, many feminists don't want guys attracted to it. If it were up to them, there'd be an image at www.dictionary.com with a sign next to "vagina" reading "No men allowed."
This is why I think they like the status quo. Vagina is a tough word that refuses to roll easily off the tongue. It has such a sense of taboo that nobody feels totally comfortable talking about it - not even women, but especially men. So use of the word remains almost exclusively to the feminists.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems that vajayjay is different. Unlike the starkly clinical vagina, I see a vajayjay as a happy and inviting place, with a warm and fuzzy connotation. Vajayjay says "hello . . . welcome" and "open for business." "Vagina" screams textbook. "Vajayjay" says Facebook.
In short, "vajayjay" has got us thinking outside of the box, which makes the feminists nervous. They want to keep "vagina" all to themselves. That is why they are vajayjay naysayers. (I recognize, of course, that linguists may disagree.)
Years ago (when I was much younger than I am today), I had lunch in a men's club (of course), where I made the acquaintance of an older, distinguished gent. We were randomly seated next to one another. I'd bet two generations separated me from my dining companion.
As the hour progressed and we warmed to one another, I asked him what he did for a living. With a sagelike glint in his eye, he said to me: "Son, I spend my daytime doing what you'll spend your lifetime trying to accomplish."
You probably figured out that he was an OB/GYN. Some things don't get lost in translation.