The Dirty Word asks: Why are there so many period euphemisms anyway?
We call it everything but its name: “Aunt Flow,” “the crimson tide,” being “on the rag.” If one were to guess our feelings based on the names we call our period, one would think we were ashamed of it.
In the latest episode of “The Dirty Word,” Amanda Montell examines our relationship with our periods through its many euphemisms. With over 5,000 period euphemisms in the world, it’s safe to say our relationship with menstruation is…complicated. Alongside special guest Sara Tan, Amanda dissects how language can impact our relationships, including the one with our own bodies, and how we can reclaim our periods through language.
In the video, Amanda talks about a point that linguist Muriel Schulz has made: Anything that can contribute to prejudice and stereotype is a euphemism.
When we speak indirectly about something, or in metaphor, it can create tension, shame, and inaccurate ideas about this topic. This is especially true of female sexuality and even more so about periods. To see this firsthand for themselves, Amanda and Sara take a minute to list all the period euphemisms they can think of.
This list includes “on the rag,” “crimson flow,” “time of the month,” “ladies day,” and “Aunt Flow.” The worst part? Most of these frame a period as something to be ashamed of. Or they associate periods with womanhood. As Amanda points out, there are plenty of non-binary and trans people who have their periods. Amanda also reminds us that we have the power to name our period and, in turn, we can control how we feel about it.
This means we can find another way to say period, one that is both inclusive and respectful.
With so many euphemisms for “period” in the world, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to finding a more appropriate name for when we’re menstruating. We love that Amanda and Sara both say they’re “bleeding” when they’re on their periods — simply because it’s the truth.
We’re not ashamed to bleed, and we hope you aren’t either.