Scrotum and Vagina—two words that have recently created quite a storm. “Scrotum” appeared in a children’s book by Susan Patron, The Higher Power of Lucky and led to protests by parents and librarians. “Vagina” was spoken by three girls at John Jay High School as they read a passage from The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler and who were suspended because of it. Both of these instances point to a real problem. But the problem is not with the words, it’s with the people who want to keep these words hidden and secretive. Don’t these people—these self-appointed protectors of the dictionary—realize that boys and girls know about these body parts and talk about them—whether they use these specific terms or not? Don’t they realize that their discomfort with these words only reflects their own ignorance about language and language usage? Don’t they realize that their objections to these words only add to their mystery? And of course it goes deeper; it communicates to children that sex is bad, even sexual information is bad. Apparently these people assume that if you don’t use the word, you won’t know the concept; if they can keep children from using these words, they can keep them innocent. How uninformed, how misinformed can people be?

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