- Conext: The following informant, T, is a 56 yr. old married mother of three. She comes from a large Italian family. She explains to me the alternative names she and her entire extended family use for vagina (culinta/cullie) and penis (ginkle/ginks). The informant also sings me a song she created when her daughter was a toddler that incorporates a variant of the word culinta that is now sung throughout her family to female toddlers. The conversation took place in the informants kitchen as we looked at old family photos and remembered other folkspeech used among the family.
T: “In my family growing up we would call vaginas culintas and penises ginkles and I don’t know where it came from. But it came from my dad’s side of the family, and they we’re Italian, and they would really call it a cullie or a ginks or a ginkle and we would just reference that…
And so when [my daughter] was little I made up this song about putting her pull-ups on in the kitchen and it would go… it goes like this…
‘Put the pulls on the cules and make the coffee in the kitchen’
And now that’s a family song. And all of the nieces, all of my nieces, sing that song to their kids.”
- Analysis: Sex is a very tabboo subject in American society. The conversation of genitalia is also often censored. I believe this may be one of the reasons for the wide variety of vocabulary used to describe male and female genitalia. It does not shock me that my own family uses the words culinta and ginkle, because even though we’re aware of what body parts we’re referring to, it somehow makes the conversation feel appropriate to any audience. In addition, the words themselves sound more similar to Italian words, so they harken back to our ancestry. I plan on teaching the words culinta/cullie and ginkle/ginks to my children, as I’m not sure they could survive in our family without knowing the meaning of those words. Surprisingly to me, when the terms are used around non-family members, they often understand the meaning, but I would attribute this more to the context in which they are used. Perhaps from the other parts of the conversation, the person is able to pick up on the meaning of the words rather than inherently knowing the definitions.