Boomies and Winkies: What’s Your Favorite Euphemism?
So I got an iPhone for my birthday. I’m pretty excited about it, but a little nervous because I’m fairly OCD about checking my e-mail and Facebook accounts. Having constant access to these things could be very bad. I think too much screen time steals pieces of your soul.
Furthermore, it’s currently naked. This also bothers me because, in its pure form, the iPhone is this sad, tiny little pathetic thing. It’s just a shell of itself, and like Darth Vader without his helmet at the end of Return of the Jedi , hard to look at. My fancy new electric blue, drop-proof, scratch-proof, water-proof case arrives in 3-5 work days. I may wrap the phone in bubble wrap 'til then.
Anyhow, that bears no relevance to this week’s topic: euphemisms.
Specifically the ones I encounter at work.
Sometime last year, a well dressed, well coiffed middle-aged lady came in for a new puppy exam.
I honestly don’t remember why she came in. I just remember one part of the visit: After going through the introductory formalities she proceeded to inform me that the dog had left five "boomies" all over the house.
At this point, I experienced a little squirt of adrenaline because I had no idea what this woman was talking about. However, professional decorum dictated that I ride this conversation out a little and see if I could figure this matter out.
I surreptitiously grabbed a Post-it and wrote the term "boomie" down in case I needed to feign an excuse to leave the exam room. ("Please excuse me, I need to check a patient" is a common coping method employed by new grads in order to exit gracefully to look something up in a book. From time to time we older grads still use it.)
After some gentle probing, she mentioned that the dog seemed to have no problem with "winkies," just the "boomies." This woman was telling me all of this with a perfectly straight face, as if we were discussing the nature of her stock portfolio.
By now, it dawned on me, that she was explaining to me her travails with potty training her dog. At this point I needed to go "check a patient" so that I could share my new vocabulary words with the staff, have a good laugh, compose myself, then return and try to keep a straight face and see what we could do about those "boomies" and "winkies."
As humans, we all seem to have our favorite euphemisms for unpleasant subjects: fecal material, urine, genitalia. As professionals, though, we’re supposed to use proper terminology.
My boss, the quintessential professional, will never deviate from this. In the eleven years I’ve worked for him, I think I’ve heard him use the word "poop" once. To him it’s always "stool." A term I hate because to me, a stool is something you sit on.
I vary my terminology with my audience. For the older or more serious crowd, I’ll use anatomically correct verbiage (even though I may cringe inwardly when I utter some of them; I’m prudish that way). Penis, vagina (I usually sub "vulva"; it just sounds nicer), etc. I generally go with "fecal material" over stool, though.
For the casual crowd I’ll stick with "poop," "pee" and "vulva" if I’m feeling professional, and "girl parts" or "lady bits" if I’m not.
A penis stays a penis because any other terminology is either too silly or too crude for professional use. Maybe wiener if there are kids around (and again, casual clients) because kids think that’s funny. Usually males have problems with their sheath, which is a nice, unassuming term.
So, after the "boomie/winkie" incident, I started a list of euphemisms that I encounter at work. I never finished the list, so I figured I’d let you guys do it.
What are your favorites, or maybe some unusual ones, that you’ve encountered?
P.S. Ohmygosh, I just came out of an appointment where the client informed me that her dogs were "dragging their po." In a moment of déjà vu, I once again stealthily grabbed the Post-it. I had a sneaky suspicion I knew what she was talking about, so I mentioned how allergies sometimes make dogs drag their rear ends. The lady’s face lit up at this new information (she thought only worms caused that), and I heaved a sigh of relief at my correct guess as to what exactly a "po" was.
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll