So I'd like to post some answers to existing questions or ask for input on various matters to do with the human body and I think i'm likely to get into hot water if I use the terms that are commonly used among the parents I know as we have an international audience. Even though the terms I use seem to be in reasonable use, I'd rather not start out by offending.

So, what is the guidance for using terms to refer to body parts, particularly the bits that people usually cover up?

Anatomical? Slang? Just whatever I'd use anyhow?

3 Answers 3


I don't want to propose a phrasing police and don't want to edit posts unless absolutely necessary, but there have been a few answers where I only understood the meaning by deducing from the context, though I consider myself a fairly good non-native English speaker. Not all of us understand what e.g. piddling means.

I'd be thankful for avoiding slang and regional terms. I would prefer simply genitalia, or if required, the specific ones, penis etc.


Using the terms "male/female genitalia" is sufficiently clinical and understandable that it isn't likely to be misconstrued as too gratuitous.


I'd say the anatomical word. I think, at least without context, "genitalia" is a little too broad. If you're trying to talk about something regarding the penis, for example, anything regarding the testes isn't really relevant, but both are considered the genitals.

I can't speak for the non-American crowd, but Americans, at least, find just about anything having to do with reproduction as vulgar or "obscene" or dirty (speaking as a native-born American, who has had to deal with the awkwardness around talking about sex-related topics). It's one of those things that everyone does and/or thinks about, but no one talks about. Hence the plethora of euphemisms. In other words, you're bound to offend someone just by talking about it, might as well use the "proper" terms for things.

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