The V Word

There’s a new huge billboard on Westwood Blvd that went up recently. It’s that discreet color of pink with a curly script font that always signals female: the pink of the baby girl bow, the pink of the breast cancer awareness bow, the pink of a tutu, the pink of a rose and so forth. The only other demonstrably pink item of clothing I can think of that is not strictly female is the pink of the Wasp-y golf shirt, or Brooks Brothers oxford cloth. What could be Wasp-ier than a blond man in a pink shirt with wire rims and suspenders? A blond man in a pink alligator shirt wielding a golf club?

MM - The V Word Blog Header

The billboard, which interestingly enough replaced the one that had a running tally of how many people were currently dying of cigarette related illnesses is in a very central and I’m guessing expensive spot, on the southeast corner of Santa Monica and Westwood Boulevards. I pass it several times a week when I’m driving home at 6 from yoga.

The pink sign is an advertisement for a procedure that is meant to renew the vagina. Ugh, there I’ve said it, the dread word. And there’s a website too.

I just did a search and came up with a vibrator, some kegel exercises but nothing about the procedure or any information about the doctor that is paying for that huge billboard. Probably the billboard will go down soon.

The billboard will go down, but I’ll still be thinking from time to time why the V word is so hard for me to say. I don’t think I’m alone.

I didn’t see the play about the V. Monologues. I’m sure it had some merit if so many people loved it and it traveled all over the world. I didn’t go see it because I didn’t want to hear the V word said out loud so many many times. I’m sure (being an inveterate potty mouth) I’ve said the F word literally tens of thousands of times. I doubt if I have said the V word out loud even two dozen times in my life. And if I never had to say it again, I wouldn’t miss it. I’d be relieved.

I’m not at all prudish. And if it weren’t the V word, I don’t think I’d have a whole lot of trouble saying out loud a word about an area of the body specializing in sexual pleasure and culminating in its purpose: birth and procreation of the species. The V word is hard to say because the word itself is ugly. A little uglier (in my view) than penis. Which isn’t as pretty as bird. Bird is a nice word. Bird as in ‘shoot someone the bird’ is nothing like its harsh, female corollary, the V word. And of course you never shoot someone the V. Is this because men were the ones who wrote down the language?

My friend L calls her V, her Virginia. Ha. Much cuter than the alternative. Friend S calls it her Woo. Even better. Myself, I have no pet names because being a writer I’m a snob about words, and think euphemisms are for everybody else except me. I wouldn’t, for instance, be caught dead saying anything like “lady parts.”

I just decided not to do a search. And went upstairs and looked in my two volume shorter OED. What a relief not to do a search. What a relief to leaf through some pages and look down a long column that isn’t lit from behind and requires my reading glasses. The dictionary is like the ancient pleasure of looking through a card catalogue in the good old Dewey Decimal days.

Here’s what I found: Vagina Dentata! A gem! It means the motif or theme of a V with teeth which occurs in myth or folklore and fantasy and is said to symbolize fear of castration. Anyone with half an ear could notice when you add the dentata to the V word, it mitigates some of its sins. I would have no trouble saying Vagina Dentata. I might even enjoy myself.

I also found another wonderful one. Vagitus: a cry or wail specifically by a newborn child.

Vagitus. Now that’s one gorgeous word. The kind of word you only find if you are meandering around the OED.

Just to be certain, I just did a search of Vagitus. Nothing on line. No cry, no wail, no newborn entering this crazy planet. There were a whole lot of different spellings of a V word, most of them sexual slurs.

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