The New York Times tells the story of how a silly-sounding word reached the ear of a powerful TV producer, and in only seconds of air time 18 months ago, expanded the vocabularies â€" for better or worse â€" of legions of Americans.
On February 12, 2006, viewers of Grey's Anatomy heard the character, Miranda Bailey, a pregnant doctor who had gone in labor, admonish one of her young interns, stating emphatically "O'Malley... stop looking at my vajayjay!"
The line sprang from a producer's need to mollify standards and executives who wanted the script to include fewer mentions of the word vagina.
- Vajayjay found its way into electronic dictionaries like Urban Dictionary, Word Spy and Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary.
- It was uttered on the television series 30 Rock.
- It was used on the Web site of The Tyra Banks Show.
- Jimmy Kimmel said it in a monologue.
- It has appeared in the Web publications Salon and the Huffington Post and on the blog Wonkette.
The swift adoption of vajayjay is not simply about pop culture's ability to embrace slang. Neologisms are always percolating. What it really demonstrates, say some linguists, is a vacuum in popular discourse, a need for a word for female genitalia that is not clinical, crude, misogynistic or descriptive from a man's point of view.
Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of Grey's Anatomy, brought the word into full view, but never intended to promote a euphemism or slang for the female anatomy. Rather, she fought to use vagina in the script.
"I had written an episode during the second season of Grey's in which we used the word vagina a great many times (perhaps 11)," Rhimes wrote to the Times. "Now, we'd used the word penis 17 times in a single episode and no one blinked. But with vagina, the good folks at broadcast standards and practices blinked over and over and over. I think no one is comfortable experiencing the female anatomy out loud â€" which is a shame considering our anatomy is half the population."
Continue reading about va-jay-jays in the New York Times ...