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.
For some reason I’ve always had in my head that ‘zuzu’ (zou-zou?) not sure how to spell it was the girl counterpart to zi-zi. Alex? did i just make that one up?
I “think” my son has been going around saying kiki to anyone who will listen. He said something to a school mum the other day and she was horrified but she wouldn’t tell me what he said! I didn’t hear it and wouldn’t have understood it anyway. I may have solved the mystery…
Hahaha! Kids learn French way faster than we do.
French husband and family use the term zizi for both girl and boy parts, as do my kids.
yeah…i just asked my French counterpart about it and he says I must have made up zuzu…. 🙂
I like zuzu. I think we should put it into rotation! It’s funny because a few people are saying how they use “zizi” for boys & girls, so who knows??
We use zizi with our boy but coochie for our girl! That’s funny, they use zizi for both. But you’re not the first person to tell me that.