Tag Archives: tabooistic vocabulary

Discrete Ways Women Reference their Menstrual Cycle

Informant Context: The informant is a nineteen-year-old female undergraduate student at the University of Southern California (USC).

Conversation Transcript:

Collector: “Could you share an example of tabooistic vocabulary you’d use in everyday life? Any indirect way you might reference an inappropriate topic. For example, instead of saying ‘we had sex’ one might say ‘we got to fourth base’.”

Informant: “Right. So like a euphemism?”

Collector: “Exactly.”

Informant: “I have a few for when I get my period. I’ll say ‘Miss Flow came to town this week.’ (laughs) Have you ever heard that one before?”

Collector: (laughs) “No, I haven’t!”

Informant: “I’ve also heard some people say ‘Japan has invaded’, you know because of the flag and its colors.”

Analysis: It was interesting to learn the creative ways other women reference their menstrual cycles. During my conversation with the informant, we were constantly laughing. The tabooistic phrases were funny because they aim only to be understood by a specific folk group (women of the female sex) who can personally identify with the menstruation process. For instance, the word “flow” in the first phrase is commonly used among women to describe bleeding during a period. The Japanese invasion phrase was comical since the country’s flag has similar imagery to blood spotting on a white pad. As members of the target folk group, the informant and I enjoyed these tabooistic phrases about menstruation.

Discrete Ways Men Reference Masturbation

Informant Context: The informant is a 20-year-old white male from Riverside, California.

Conversation Transcript: 

Collector: “I am exploring tabooistic vocabulary around masturbation. For men, are there any phrases or gestures you use to reference male masturbation?”

Informant: “I mean, when I’m talking to my boys I’ll straight up just say ‘jerk off’ and be more explicit. Sometimes I will do this–“

The Informant cups his hand it into a cylindrical shape, then moves it up and down. The gesture aims to demonstrate male masturbation.

Informant: “–and say ‘yank one out’ or ‘beating your meat’. Meat is just another word for your penis.”

Analysis: I was not surprised by the tabooistic vocabulary the informant shared about male masturbation. Those phrases and gestures are commonly used in our age demographic. What did surprise me was how openly the informant discussed masturbation. He said around peers, he is not afraid to explicitly talk about the activity. When it comes to people outside his peer group or age bracket, he avoids talking about it all together.

ETA Superstition

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English, Chinese

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Los Angeles, CA

Performance Date: 02/17/2024

A.N is 19 years old, and is currently a USC student who’s originally from Yangon, Myanmar. She is my current suite mate and has been a friend since middle school, since we are from the same hometown and school. I asked her if she has heard of or is familiar with any tabooistic vocabulary within our culture. 

“One superstition that I remember my mom saying is that we aren’t allowed to say the specific estimated time of arrival, or else we won’t get there on the time mentioned. I first heard that when I was a pre-teen and my family was on a road trip to Ngwe Saung. I asked my mom when we were arriving and she said that she wasn’t allowed to say. She did end up telling me that we can say a more vague description of the ETA, like “evening” but not something as specific as 5 p.m. I remember it clearly because as a kid, I believed it too. Eventually it became a superstition that I try to keep in mind whenever I am answering the same question if someone else were to ask me that.”

As a Burmese person, I can’t say I’ve heard of this tabooistic vocabulary or superstition but I don’t deny its possibility since we have a lot of other superstitions that are just as trivial and non-sensical. A.N states that she is not clear with what the reasoning behind this superstition is but I personally think that it might just be her mom not wanting to give an answer to her child who could start to complain or become impatient. On the other hand, it could be related to our culture of avoiding stating something important, in the chance we might ‘jinx’ ourself. It is our way of holding on to the hope that the outcome, in this situation the ETA, is something that we want it to be.