Friday, August 05, 2011

Your Lovemaking May Be Hopelessly Vanilla

So here’s a fun one. When you describe something that’s not food as being vanilla, you’re saying it is a little boring, a little tame, perhaps maybe a little less interesting that a certain alternative. The word vanilla, however, has a sexy side — at least etymologically speaking.

According to EtymOnline, the word comes from Spanish, where it means “little pod,” and that makes sense when you consider that the plant’s fruit is the feature we humans care most about, since we use it to flavor our uninspired sundaes. However, that word vanilla also happens to be the diminutive of vaina, “sheath,” which in turn comes from the Latin vagina, also meaning “sheath.” You see, the pods must be opened in order to access the fruit that you process in order to make the flavor, and the Spanish explorers who encountered these structures in the New World likened them to the covering one might put on a sword. (Ahem.)

Odd to think about how someone saw these and said “Yep, that’s a sheath right there.”


Because they’re phallic-looking, if anything. But I, as I’ve mentioned before, was not a Spanish explorer and never will be.

Before you surmise that the vanilla plant is a victim of wordplay brought about by the type of horniness that only seafaring expeditions can create, know that vanilla is documented as coming into use in the 1660s, while vagina — referring to the body part, in what seems like a logical metaphorical extension from its more innocent meaning — is documented as first being used in English in the 1680s. So how did Latin-speakers refer to the monosyllable before? Cunnus, which, EtymOnline says, is not provably related to that wonderful seaward term I haven been discouraged from using.

But back to your terrible ice cream: Buck up, vanilla lovers, in your khakis and your loafers. The next time you hear your emblematic flavor defamed, tap the smacktalker on the shoulder and announce in the loudest volume possible, “VANILLA VAGINA! VANILLA VAGINA! VANILLA VAGINA!” You’ll probably be asked to leave, but you’ll also effectively redirect the conversation.

Food gets sexy, previously:

4 comments:

  1. "vagina" was first used to refer to the body part *in English* in 1680. Apparently it was used to refer to the body part in Latin before that.

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    Replies
    1. Right, right. Correction made. Thanks.

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  2. As you know, Vanilla is a genus of orchid. Look up the etymology of "orchid" and consider an update to this post.

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