Mike Hale, “Like Ross, Rachel and Company, but With Faster Hook-Ups” (on the tv show Friends With Benefits), NYT Arts section, August 8:

… it combines a single-camera, mildly absurdist style and raunchy humor with stock sitcom situations. It’s the kind of show in which a lamely suggestive joke about a vajazzled woman – one with a bejeweled genital area – giving birth (“The kid came out looking like a disco ball!:) is followed by reaction shots of everyone in the scene laughing.

That’s the verb vajazzle, a portmanteau of either vagina or the euphemism vajayjay with bedazzle.

The portmanteau vajazzle was new to me (and seems to be genuinely recent; see below), as it was to Roger at the webcomic Micro and Macro:

Note vagoogly eyes (with its reference to Barney Google). The vajazzling in the cartoon is in the neighborhood of the vagina, but not actually in the crotch — as in this photo:

Some vajazzlings are as far north as the navel. But some go all the way south, as in this butterfly vajazzling:

It looks like we have Jennifer Love Hewitt to thank for spreading the word. See this discission on on February 26, 2010:

Should You Vajazzle Your Vajayjay?

You’ve tried everything to spruce up your lady parts. First, you made sure your garden was neat and tidy. Then, you trimmed up the hedges. (Read Does Bikini Razor Commercial Go Too Far?) Finally, you decided to go for the gold and deforested all of “virginia.” Where does a girl go from here?

One sparkly, special word: Vajazzle.

Vajazzling is a burgeoning beauty treatment, popular with celebs and kinky Martha Stewart-ites alike, that involves ladies bedazzling their freshly waxed lady parts just as they would their neato neckerchiefs or fancy fannypacks – with tiny, magical crystals.

So women aren’t just obsessively coiffing their “areas” to look like pre-teen Barbies – they’re now glue-sticking Barbie’s earrings down below, too?

Jennifer Love Hewitt sparked this sparkly trend a few weeks ago when she announced her labia luster on Lopez Tonight. “After a breakup, a friend of mine Swarovski-crystalled my precious lady,” J.Love said, while discussing her new dating book. “It shined like a disco ball, so I have a whole chapter in there on how women should vajazzle their vajayjays.”

(BettyConfidential also calls them labia sprinkles.)

The medical term vagina went into the general vocabulary some time ago, and then, predictably, many people started treating it as (to some degree) a taboo word, so that alongside older euphemisms (like lady parts, lady, areas, and down below from BettyConfidential), vagina-based euphemisms developed: virginia and vajayjay above, vag elsewhere. Vajayjay‘s popularity apparently goes back to 2006 (though there are at least a few prior uses). Here’s the beginning of a Stephanie Rosenbloom column, “What Did You Call It?” in the NYT on October 28, 2007:

THIS is the story of how a silly-sounding word reached the ear of a powerful television producer, and in only seconds of air time, expanded the vocabularies — for better or worse — of legions of women.

It began on Feb. 12, 2006, when viewers of the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy” heard the character Miranda Bailey, a pregnant doctor who had gone into labor, admonish a male intern, “Stop looking at my vajayjay.”

The line sprang from an executive producer’s need to mollify standards and practices executives who wanted the script to include fewer mentions of the word vagina.

The scene, however, had the unintended effect of catapulting vajayjay (also written va-jay-jay) into mainstream speech. Fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” expressed their approval of the word on message boards and blogs.

The show’s most noted fan, Oprah Winfrey, began using it on her show, effectively legitimizing it for some 46 million American viewers each week.

“I think vajayjay is a nice word, don’t you?” she asked her audience.

Rosenbaum goes on to chronicle the word’s spread in the popular media and to turn to linguists and opinion-makers:

The swift adoption of vajayjay is not simply about pop culture’s ability to embrace new slang. Neologisms are always percolating. What this really demonstrates, say some linguists, is that there was a vacuum in popular discourse, a need for a word for female genitalia that is not clinical, crude, coy, misogynistic or descriptive of a vagina from a man’s point of view.

— citing Geoff Nunberg, Eve Ensler (of The Vagina Monologues), Carol Livoti (author of Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual), Gloria Steinem, John McWhorter, and Steve Pinker. Plus earlier uses of the word.

Some object to the word as too precious, childish, or cutesy, but if it continues to be popular no doubt it too will move along the euphemism treadmill (as Pinker calls it) and become a (mildly) dirty word itself.

How long vajazzling will be popular is anyone’s guess.

3 Responses to “Vajazzled!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Ben Zimmer writes:

    I noted “vajazzle”/”vagazzle” on ADS-L on 1/18/2010 (link)

    And I see Mr. Verb got to it a day before that (link)

  2. Rick Sprague Says:

    I picked up “vajayjay”, as I have much youthful slang, from my younger friends. Had no clue that it was so recent, or had such a staid origin. But frankly, though I’m no prude, it’s been something of a taboo word for me right from the start.

    Oprah notwithstanding, I could see myself using it in crude conversations with my young male buddies at the bar, or in rather less crude conversations with my closest young female friends, but I’d be afraid to utter it in front of women I wasn’t close to, or almost anyone over 40. And at work, it seems like the kind of word that could earn you a chat with the Human Resources Manager.

  3. mollymooly Says:

    “va-gee-gee” fits the spelling of “vagina” better than “va-jay-jay”, though maybe it’s too redolent of horse.

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