On Twitter this morning, I made reference to a possibly drunken, probably sarcastic tweet from the rather excellent Ms Stamper and, before long, there was much talk of boobs. In fact, I was recommended by someone as a person one of their friends should follow purely because of my mention (and promise of future mentions) of the word. Being rather fond of carefully crafting my tweets, I decided not to repeat my initial usage of the slightly comical and rounded word ‘boobs’, replacing it instead with the rather more straightforward ‘breasts’ as I wrestled with the pressure of living up to such a recommendation. When Carrie complemented me on my use of a more grown-up word, I started to ponder the variety words we use for that particular part of a woman’s anatomy, and why.
Why do we need so many words for these over-sexualised mounds of flesh, and why do so many people opt for the slightly childish or crass words? Perhaps they’re slightly frightened of mentioning such things in polite company and so referring to them as boobies helps to remove any sexual overtones? Maybe using the word norks adds a slightly friendlier Carry On edge to a letcherous comment? Whatever the reasons, it’s tricky not to make small assumptions about a person and/or their motives, based on their noun of choice. Using ‘tits’ makes you sound like a bit of a Nuts/Zoo magazine-reading football hooligan, whereas the phrase ‘fun bags’ is guaranteed to insinuate that you’re not getting any sex (nor are you likely to any time soon). I even think the word boobs is a little childish. After all, that ‘oo’ sound sandwiched between those lovely round Bs may feel nice to say, but it sounds like something a kid would yell whilst pointing at their pubescent sister as a form of mild public humiliation.
So, if we’re being serious, why not say breasts? That’s what they are, after all.
Is this one of those 'context' things?
But you are right, words carry associations. If I say 'dong' or 'dick' or 'cock' rather than penis, then that says something about both my attitude to language and to genitalia.
I remember a conversation with a friend (female) about how she thought there was a scale of words to breast size, with (smallest to largest), the order being titties, tits, boobies, boobs, and bazongas (her word!)).
As to why we use slang words, there are a huge variety of personal and social reasons, and as you say it depends on the type of comment. If it's a silly, throwaway line I'm more likely to use 'boobs' as, for a more serious context, it seems wrong (boob cancer? ick).
So, yes breasts is the grown up word. The others could be used in negative ways. But, as ever, depends on who and where and why the word is being used.
Isn't the English language fun! (also, hadn't thought about the shape of the letters until now!)
You're right about context. Depending on the time/place/people I will vary the words I use, but it is strange how only the textbook terms have no negative associations. They're just… there.
English is a wonderfully expressive language, and also incredibly silly at times 🙂
That's possibly because nobody really uses “breasts” or “penis” outside of a textbook.
If you define language by how people use it in conversation – as opposed to how it's written down – then boobies and cock are as justifiable as any other term.
Definitely a context-based issue. I personally like the word 'knockers'; but would only use it in certain contexts. i.e. not at the doctors, but perhaps with close friends 😉
Nice post 🙂
That's a fab post. Very true! Your blog is great! Will be reading 🙂
City Girl x