Adding to the endless list of Things Expats Don’t Understand is what to call your private parts in French. Praise Yeezus I never had to sext in a foreign language because it would have done me in. I still can’t/don’t curse in French. Having to wordreference “I want to ____ your ____” would have made me spontaneously combust in a fireball of shame and stupidity.
Still, some half-French babies pop out of your lady garden and what to call their bits en français becomes a Need To Know matter. Your kid isn’t going to be the weirdo calling her vagina a “front bottom” (in British English—seriously?) or a “coochie” (in American English). It’s a kiki, says my Frenchwoman Alex, who gets random emails from me asking the most random things.
Naming your privates is a pretty personal matter and, some would argue, a safety issue. There are many advocates for calling a spade a spade and a vulva a vulva:
- You don’t want to attach any shame to this particular part of the body by giving it a cutesy name. No one’s calling an elbow a “jabber.”
- God forbid anything abusive happens to your child, you want him or her to be clear about what happened and to which part.
That said, many other people get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of their toddler screaming in the supermarket, “My vulva is itchy, mama!” Hence, all the euphemisms: minnie, mimi, muffy, willy, weenie, doodle, peepee, hoo-ha, v-jay, down there. (Side note: What I grew up calling a vagina is actually a vulva. This perplexes me as much as Pluto no longer being a planet. “Mulva?”)
My little ones are bigger now so they know vagina, vulva and penis. Whoops, not in French. I swear, you think you’re doing alright as a parent and boom, #momfail in your face. Lemme check that…
I’m back. Vagin, vulve and pénis (strangely, not a silent “s”). Who else loves a good cognate? Also, how have I given birth in this country—twice—without every looking up those three words? And wait, balls: testicules.
Once again, we expats are duty-bound to learn yet another thing so we (or our kids) don’t look foolish. I’ve done some research and Alex has filled in the blanks. These are the basics, feel free to embellish as you see fit!
What French kids call their parts
Girls: kiki, tutute, zezette, nénette
Boys: zizi, zigounette; balls: coucougnettes, testicouilles (Alex’s kids’ word for them)
What French adults call their parts
Women: parties intimes, foufe, foufoune, chatte (vulgar)
Men: verge, chibre, popol, bite (vulgar); balls: boules, gonades, bonbons, valseuses and couilles, burnes (both vulgar)
If You Wanna Sext
Use: chatte and bite
If we missed your favorite term, do let us know.
What have you taught your kids about naming their private parts? If you care to share, leave a comment here or go on over to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And please do sign up for our newsletter to get the best stories from Paris and beyond.