Victorian-Era Vagina Slang

Cristen Conger

Proving that the Internet isn't just a useless digital photo repository of adorable kittens and otters that look like Benedict Cumberbatch, I learned some fantastic Victorian slang via tumblr today. In addition to "bitch the pot" meaning "pour the tea," apparently some saltier-tongued Victorians referred to vaginas as crinkum-crankum. Used in a late 18th-century-appropriate sentence: "Ladies should avoid riding newfangled bicycles or risk unwholsomely jostling her crinkum-crankum."

Although, as etymologist Michael Quinion notes, a proper lady also would avoid improper slang like "crinkum-crankum," which had an entry in the 1784 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. In it, Francis Grose described the term as: "a woman's commodity: the private parts of a modest woman, and the public parts of a prostitute." Well!

Merriuam-Webster doesn't acknowledge the vaginal meaning, however. Listed as an archaic word, "crinkum-crankum" officially means "something full of twists and turns, a thing fancifully or excessively intricate and elaborate." Which sounds a lot like a winding staircase in an old Victorian mansion...or a really fancy vagina!

Of course, those vagina-phobic Victorians didn't put all of their genital euphemism eggs into one basket (surprisingly not a Victorian vagina slang). Jennie Goldstein at Hypervocal combed Grose's dictionary and rounded up 15 additional nicknames, including my favorites: coffee-house, doodle sack and tuzzy-muzzy.