Cover your eyes! I’m going to cuss obscenely!


Testicle. Testes. Seminiferous tubule. Vas deferens. Prostate.

Penis. Corpora cavernosa. Urethra.

Urethra, urethra, urethra.

Ovary. Fallopian tube. Cervix. Uterus. Vagina. Labia majora and minora. Skene’s and Bartholin’s glands. Wolffian and Mullerian ducts.


Pubococcygeal. Pelvic floor. Orifice.




  1. Steve LaBonne says

    Cerebral cortex! (Really, that seems to be the body part these people are most afraid of.)

  2. 386sx says

    I don’t see what the big deal is. In my neck of the woods those are all words of affection. Some people are really weird, man.

  3. madjon says

    I’ve been following your blog for a long time now.
    I fail to understand how you missed…


  4. Thony C. says

    What’s the ugliest part of your body?
    What’s the ugliest part of your body?
    Some say your nose
    Some say your toes
    But I think its your mind!

    Frank Zappa

  5. says

    Dare I say that I’m outraged at the outrage? I can’t believe that librarians are shocked (shocked!) at a book that won a Newberry Medal. Like we need to confirm the shushing pinched-lipped matron stereotype.

    For crying out loud, tell the little children what the scrotum is. Once they stop giggling, you’ll probably find that they already have their own words for it (and that the girls know the word, too). In an era in which Jerry Springer’s show is the most popular program on TV, what are we scared about the body for? “It’s a case of the author not knowing her audience.” No, it’s a case of the author not knowing her audience’s self-appointed guardians of morality (?).

  6. J-Dog says

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of this, as sometimes here in the Lake Titicaca area, we seem largely ignored. I intend to delve deeply into the situation and get a handle on it as often as I possibly can.

  7. Karey says

    That new york times article is beyond embarrassing. Its not a dirty word! And making out like its about censorship i don’t think helps. Censorship issues come into play when you are pushing the envelope with potential obscene stuff but that has a good arty point to make in the end or something. There’s nothing controvercial, its the freaking proper anatomical term. And kids get funny about words of that region, overall it sounds like a really amusing scenario in the book.

  8. Mnemosyne says

    This reminds me of a whole kerfuffle that exploded on a wedding planning message board that I used to frequent when one of the posters put pictures of her ultrasound and joked that, though you could sort of see the fetus, you mostly saw her uterus.


    Funniest part: the people leading the charge against the filth were people who had kids. I guess their doctors anesthetized them throughout the process so they’d never have to hear the filthy word “uterus.”

  9. harv says

    . . .I intend to delve deeply into the situation and get a handle on it as often as I possibly can.

    That was a mouthful.

  10. RebLaw says

    That reminds me of the sermon I heard this week (I go to church mostly for the laughs). The priest censored the biblical story of David, because he didn’t want to say the word “foreskin” so he “PG-ized” (his word, not mine) to scalps.
    I mean, heaven forbid a child know what the parts of a male penis are called.
    What’s it with religious conservatives and fear of children knowing what body parts are called?

  11. Karey says

    I guess they’d rather kids only use vulger swear words when they have a need to reference such body parts. Deprive them of any and all appropriate vocabulary.

  12. says

    I’m so not going to be able to read Pharyngula at work anymore.

    (Not a joke. They’ve already blocked the front page.)

  13. GW says

    At least you’re allowed to show a dog’s scrotum on tv. Janet Jackson’s tit is off limits, though.

  14. Carlie says

    Wanna know a dirty little secret? I bet every single one of those words is in a book that is ALREADY in EVERY LIBRARY in EVERY GRADE SCHOOL in THE COUNTRY. Right there, out in the open, right where any child could have access to it!

    It’s…shhhhhh…the dictionary.

  15. khan says

    IIRC back in the 60s some people wanted certain dictionaries banned in schools because of the bad words.
    Back then I read The Godfather and found the word ‘fellatio’. I had no idea what it meant, though assumed that it was something sexual.

    Couldn’t find it in the dictionary, so I asked my mother.

  16. Baratos says

    Back then I read The Godfather and found the word ‘fellatio’. I had no idea what it meant, though assumed that it was something sexual.

    For several years, I thought “fellatio” was a famous actor.

  17. Tapetum says

    Carlie – you might laugh about it before you see the banned book lists, but the OED and Webster’s Unabridged are two of the most frequently banned books for exactly that reason.

  18. says

    So I’m confused. Are the male children of the book banners allowed to have scrotums, and if so, what do they call them?

  19. says

    “That reminds me of “Pet Names For Genitalia.””

    Which is better than “Genitalia Names for Pets”, I guess…

  20. Chris Ho-Stuart says

    I remember at high school we had quite a good sprinter, called Robert Arrowsmith. But he had the nickname “Nads”.

    This was so that in races, we could all cheer him on by yelling, “Go, Nads”.

  21. Steve LaBonne says

    You left out BUSH.

    Ooh, wash out your filthy mouth with soap!

    Oh, wait, sorry, I thought you were referring to the Chimperor.

  22. says

    RebLaw wrote:
    “That reminds me of the sermon I heard this week (I go to church mostly for the laughs). The priest censored the biblical story of David, because he didn’t want to say the word “foreskin” so he “PG-ized” (his word, not mine) to scalps.”

    My dad did that, when I, as a 7-year-old girl, asked him in Family Devotions what it was that David brought home to Saul as proof of his prowress in war (I Samuel 18:27). He (Dad) turned all shades of red, and told me it was a patch off the forehead. So I spent a year wondering how Philistine “foreskins” would be distinguishable from Israelite “foreskins”. I finally associated it with circumcision, and the mystery was solved. I didn’t set Dad right, though; he would not have appreciated it.

  23. BruceJ says

    Aprpopos of nothing, but that list just set off “Pinky & the Brain’s” “Parts of the Brain” song in my head.

    Ahem…mee mee mee…

    (Sung to Camptown Races by Stephen Foster.)

    Pinky: And now, the parts of the brain, performed by The Brain!
    Brain: Ye-e-s!

    Brain: Neo-cortex, frontal lobe
    Pinky: Brainstem! Brainstem!
    Brain: Hippocampus, neural node
    Right hemisphere.

    Brain: Pons and cortex visual
    Pinky: Brainstem! Brainstem!
    Brain: Sylvian fissure, pineal
    Left hemisphere.

    Brain: Cerebellum left!
    Cerebellum right!
    Synapse, hypothalamus
    Striatum, dendrite.

    Brain: Axon fibers, matter gray
    Pinky: Brainstem! Brainstem!
    Brain: Central tegmental pathway
    Temporal lobe.

    Brain: White core matter, forebrain, skull
    Pinky: Brainstem! Brainstem!
    Brain: Central fissure, cord spinal

    Brain: Pia mater!
    Menengeal vein!
    Medulla oblongata and lobe limbic
    Pinky: Naaarf!
    P+B : THE BRAIN!!!

    Brain: That ought to keep the little squirts happy. Ye-e-s!

  24. says

    madjon, we’ll never see the likes of Vivian Stanshall again (nor Frank Zappa’s, either, Thony C.)

    Outside, icicles crystalline and lovely pendant from his nose, Old Scrotum the wrinkled retainer scrunched up the gravel whistling a dirty song. Aunt Florry, gentle corset prisoner of the flesh, started, and was alert as a skinless eye, when the old man, his russet-burned country face smiling in wreaths, pushed open the back door. “Mornin’ Ma’m,” he wheezed, “I’ve filled in the grave nice.” Florry nodded and indicated the sink. “Perhaps you’d– care to wash your hands.” “Aar, no thankee, mum, I already did that up against a tree afore I came in here.”
    Florry took a careful, purse-lipped sip of now-cold tea.

  25. Carlie says

    Tapetum and Kristine –
    [bangs head on wall]

    Seriously? I somehow missed that. I remember fondly the day I took my parents’ advice to look up words I didn’t know, and looked up one of the hush-hush ones. Lordy, it was there! Then there was another, and another, and then I felt the rush of power knowing that they were all there, and I could find out what they all meant. That was a good day.

    Speaking of epididymus, my poor 8 year old had epididymitis a few months ago, of which I had not heard before then. Try explaining that to everyone wondering what’s wrong and not going into anatomical detail; sometimes the words are, indeed, necessary.

  26. Matt T. says

    Back then I read The Godfather and found the word ‘fellatio’. I had no idea what it meant, though assumed that it was something sexual.

    Couldn’t find it in the dictionary, so I asked my mother.

    And she said…?

    My mother was pretty cool about not bullshitting an inquisitive child when I asked her the actual names for body parts, plus she had a ton of anatomy books from college (she coached girls’ basketball, so that’s why, I suppose). I’d ask her what this was or that was or why girls didn’t have peters*, and she’d not only tell me, she’d give me a nicely illustrated manual with easy-to-read explinations.

    But she is a huge prude. Seriously, any swear word that has to do with sex hangs her up, though she drops stuff like “shit fire and hell fuzzy” without blinking. And we didn’t have cable, so I was 13 or so before I learned about the existence of oral sex. My reaction was something like, “Do what?!?”

    By that time, however, I’d realized there were certain things one could ask Momma and certain things one couldn’t. My friends, however, couldn’t believe I’d never thought of such things, and this was 20 years ago in rural Mississippi.

    *Slag for penis. No idea why, but I did go to school with a boy who’s nickname was “Peterhead” because a bad case of hat-hair apparently once made his red head look like, well, a peter. Great guy and a good ballplayer, so it wasn’t unusual to hear a bunch of folks – everyone, and I mean everyone, except his dad (even his preacher) – holler “Go, Peterhead” much to the amusement of anyone who didn’t know him. Good guy, hope he’s doing well these days.

  27. says

    This was so that in races, we could all cheer him on by yelling, “Go, Nads”.

    The Rhode Island School of Design’s hockey team is officially named the Nads, for exactly the same reason. Those wacky art students.

    (I wear my RISD “Gonads” t-shirt at every opportunity.)

  28. Dave says

    Come on people this is serious. Look at the context. This wasn’t some quotidian reference to the dog licking his scrotum. It is an incident where a rattlesnake BITES a dogs scrotum! (cringed just a little bit even typing it)

    I, for one, don’t think the words Bite and Scrotum should EVER be used in the same sentence (without a mutually agreed upon safe-word ;)

  29. says

    an incident where a rattlesnake BITES a dogs scrotum

    [homosocial homophobe]’Round these parts, that’s what we call a dead dog.[/homosocial homophobe]

  30. Mnemosyne says

    Why did urethra get mentioned 4 times? Is that an especially dirty word or something?

    Nah. It’s just the funniest one.

  31. Rey Fox says

    “As a concerned citizen of America, I have campaigned for more than a decade to have this CD and all nudity banned from the country, as well as the replacement of breasts, penises and vaginas with a smooth layer of flesh-colored plastic at birth but so far, my ideas have been ignored by a society bent on unleashing Satan’s fury in our time.”

    -One of Mark Prindle’s amusing tangents on a review of Mr. Bungle’s debut CD

    (all-too necessary disclaimer: yes, he’s kidding)

  32. Mena says

    About 12 years ago I was volunteering at the animal shelter. An unsupervised boy of maybe 7 or 8 was in the room where the cats were but he was looking at them and not doing anything bad so I didn’t worry about it. He came to me and asked about a kitten. Apparently he saw “neutered” with a date next to it and he didn’t know what it meant so he asked me. This area is kind of close to Wheaton College and is pretty much insane fundie central (Sandy Rios was a guest speaker at something I went to and she’s one of the battiest) so I didn’t know what to tell him. I just said that the kitten was going to go and have surgery so that he would never be a father. This kid then told me that his father had taken their other cat to the vet and had his (exact quote) “ballinies” cut off. They know.

  33. Michele says

    My friend believes in teaching her kids the correct names for different parts of anatomy. One day when they were out shopping the younger daughter was whining. Her mother asked her what was wrong. The kid yelled (she has a LOUD voice), “MY VAGINA HURTS!!”

  34. Jay Ray says

    I ran across a new one in my A&P tome:

    [i]sustentacular[/i] cells

    Apparently they prod sperm cells to mature. I’m sure there is a joke/atrocious-pick-up-line in there somewhere.

  35. says

    Words. Heh. I’ve probably told the story before, but back when I was pressuring my mom to give me “The Talk”, she bought me a book to read instead. I got to a certain point, and it kept talking about “intercourse”. We must have had one of those Bowdlerized dictionaries, because the definition it had was “conversation”. I was a little naive, but I sure as heck knew you didn’t get babies from talking about it. I cornered my Mom finally, and asked her “what’s ‘intercourse’?” She stammered and stuttered and finally managed to say “it’s. . .uh. . .NICE.” and then closed herself in her room for a few hours.

  36. Don Price says

    Following the theme… When my wife was at one of her obstetrician appointments, a couple was there with a three-year-old daughter, and the female partner was again pregnant. The three-year-old came bouncing back into the packed waiting room and shouted “Dr. B. is looking at Mommy’s vagina!” This really brought down the house. Daddy handled it very well, despite being understandably somewhat embarrassed. She then proceeded to (very proudly) explain to everyone in the room that “Girls have vaginas, and boys have penises!” So funny!

  37. David Harmon says

    My first thought was: “An ignorant population is much easier to control. Especially if they’re ignorant about the important stuff.”

    But then I realized, it’s not just about ignorance, it’s about preventing “immoral thoughts” — defined as anything the authorities don’t want you to think about. Not being allowed to think about your own body is just to get you in the habit of checking with the preacher before accepting any new idea.

  38. Maggie Rosethorn says

    My daughter, at the tender age of 8, was reading my copy of “Changing Bodies, Changing Lives” which I had while studying for my MSN. At dinner one night, with parents, grandparents, and various sundry relatives, she asked “What’s cunnilingus?” The whole table hushed, and I thought the older relatives would have heart attacks right then and there. I simply told her I would tell her after dinner, it wasn’t a dinner table topic. (She was used to that answer; living in a medical family we discussed A LOT of things at the dinner table normally, but when the nonmedical people were there, they were taboo topics—I really hated it when people turned green at the table, since I wasn’t sure if it was the topic of conversation or my cooking LOL!)I kept my promise, too. After dinner, I took her aside and explained what it was. Her comment? GROSS! Well, she was only 8….

  39. Hairhead says

    I’ve got another child-story to tell.

    About a year ago, when my son was six, I took him to see a movie, and just before we seated ourselves, we went to the bathroom. I asked him if he needed to go and he said, “No!”

    “Good!” I thought, so I stepped up to the urinal, which he was still to short for, and proceeded to urinate. My son sidles up to me to watch, and then exclamed in a loud and excited voice which echoed from the hard surfaces of the public facility, “Daddy! You’ve got such BIG, LONG penis!”

    “Thanks for the advertisement,” I replied, zipping up.

  40. says

    I was around 16 years old, when in a church service, the preacher mentioned the hymen for some reason (How I wish I could remember the context of that one. Beauty of God’s creation, maybe?)

    Not knowing what that was, I asked my friends around me “What’s a hymen?”, loud enough for everyone to hear. Noone wanted to tell me, but oblivious to this, I simply kept asking until a friend explained everything.

    Was I ever embarrassed.

  41. Ruth says

    Scene from Willy Russell’s play ‘One for the road’:

    Mum : I don’t understand where our son got all those rude words from, I’ve always taught him the proper names for parts of the body!

    Dad : If you must know, I taught him them. I overheard him with the other kids, trying to swear, and he was sounding like a medical dictionary!

  42. Thony C. says

    On the subject of strange nick names for young men, one of the students who worked at the culture centre where I was the evening manager for many years was known to all of his friends and acquaintances as “Pissy”. This really annoyed his father who was the town’s most well known urologist.

    Cunnilingus: isn’t that the name of an Irish airline?

  43. rjb says

    Amusing thought regarding “Genitalia Names for Pets”. A while back when I got a new dog (female rescue dog), my german friend suggested a name for her based on his german heritage…. Kant. I sort of blankly looked at him, and said, “uh, no, I don’t think that will work”. He asked why, and I told him if I were calling for her at a local park, I’d probably get beaten up by parents. Took him a minute to figure it out (given he wasn’t a native english speaker), but the lightbulb finally came on.

  44. obscurifer says

    I was at my mom’s house a couple of years ago, and we were all reminiscing of days gone by. My grandmother piped up, “Remember Dodie’s dog, Rex? That dog had really shiny balls.” There was a three-count, then laughter.

    I think we were laughing at Grandma for not using “scrotum.”

  45. says

    I always enjoyed the word scrotum.

    When my wife (then fiancee) and I were at school together in Binghamton and would travel to her family’s home in New York, we would pass by a Pennsylvania town called Scotrun. It’s amazing how much that looks like Scrotum when you pass the sign at 65 mph!

    That, coupled (you should pardon the expression) with the fact that Pennsylvania also includes towns named Virginville and Intercourse, gave us no end of amusement.

    High School cheer from Virginia
    (not really)…

    Growing up I had cousins who lived in Norfolk (my Dad’s first cousin was a med tech at the Navy hospital), and I still smile at the great pains my grandmother took to clearly enunciate the L, even though she knew full well that wasn’t how the locals pronounced it.

  46. Ray says

    This is just so hypocritical. If “that word” is so bad, then why has there not been similar outrage concerning the seemingly endless supply of prime-time TV commercials for products claiming to cure erectile dysfunction (and going on, to my sons’ great amusement, to warn that if an erection lasts more than twelve hours, you’d better see your doctor – presumably because he too would like to do that). And commercials for “feminine products”. Aren’t these all obscene, too?

    You’re right. The country is truly fucked up.

  47. MikeM says

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this kind of stuff is exactly how religions start. Allow me to explain.

    Yesterday, it was pretty windy in Northern California. My 9 and 12 year old kids asked, “Why is it so windy outside?”. I got this sly little smile on my face, and said, “Well, it’s because there’s a high pressure system off the coast. High pressure systems rotate clockwise, and since we’re on the leading edge of that high pressure system, we get a north wind.”

    Kids looked at me and said, “Huh??”.

    Shrugged my shoulders and said, “Goddidit.”

    To their credit, they got the joke.

    Ironically, I think there are quite a few adults who would not get the joke, and would insist that it was windy yesterday because, well, that’s the way God wanted February 19, 2007 in Northern California to be.

    I never used these “toy words” with my kids, ever. Well, okay, that’s not true, sometimes I call it a “nutbag.” But my kids know what a scrotum is, and raise you $10, because they know what labia are, too. So there.

    One of the best ways to raise kids with low self esteem and no self respect is to teach them to use ONLY toy words when referring to their body parts. So I won’t do it.

    Or, better yet, teach them those parts don’t exist. Or, perhaps even better, teach them that their nutbags itch because God’s mad at them for thinking impure thoughts. You’d be pretty disappointed at the number of parents who think that’s a perfectly good thing to tell them.

  48. says

    That, coupled (you should pardon the expression) with the fact that Pennsylvania also includes towns named Virginville and Intercourse, gave us no end of amusement.

    Not even to mention not one, but *two* Blue Balls.

    Carpe scrotum

    Sometimes you like feeling nuts; sometimes you don’t!

  49. boojieboy says

    Ya know, PZ, this has the makings of a great adaptation of “Modern Major General” a la Tom Lehrer. Let’s see if I can start us off:

    there’s testicle and ovary fallopian and cervical
    labia and vas deferens ejaculate and vaginal
    scrotum and pudendum seminiferous pubococcygeal
    foreskin cavernosum erection penetration and santorum…

    Ok, Ok, breaking up a bit there at the end, but you get the idea. Now have at it folks! I expect a YouTube video available by the end of the day!

  50. says

    “It’s…shhhhhh…the dictionary.”

    Ahh yes, the reference books! I read those nasty tomes through during the third grade after I was accused by a librarian of scribbling a four letter word in a book.
    I am ashamed to say I didn’t yet know the four letter word for copulation. After their calling my attention to it I began a lifetime of study.

  51. dogu4 says

    There is nothing that makes children want to read something more than telling them they mustn’t. Children particularly like it when grown-ups act like asses, ‘cuz it’s so funny. I hope the author experiences great success and I intend to buy a copy for a child at the next opportunity.

  52. Carlie says

    I’m a college teacher, so I got to say “testicles” several times in class today without worrying about anyone’s parents complaining. Still, there was a hint of whiplash when several students who hadn’t been paying attention at all suddenly perked up upon hearing the word.