What's in a name?

Sweden (Stockholm)

In Sweden up until the 21st century, there was no way to describe female genitalia other than using a clinical or sexualised term. Social worker Anna Kosztovics decided to take a stand, and coined a word that was similar sounding to snopp, the neutral male term. Having heard the word once or twice before, she settled on the word snippa.

After applying for funding through the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU) Kosztovics went on a mission to open up discussions about the name with pre-schools in Malmö. Approaching 50 nurseries at first who welcomed the idea, Kosztovics then began promoting the word with parents and families. Snippa is now a fully accepted name, and in 2015 even TV channels began to get in on the action. The Swedish educational video Snoppen och Snippan which features a dancing snopp and snippa, has to date received 6.6 million views on YouTube. Parents are happy and teachers have also said that the new word has helped to foster a greater sense of equality in the classroom, leaving behind the idea that girls’ bodies are unspeakable or taboo.  

There are countless words in history that have been gradually erased from our language as they come to reflect prejudiced or outdated values. Significantly, in this instance, a word has been written into our vocabulary. The addition of entirely new word, with the power to make us think about the way we live our lives, marks a bold new page on gender issues. Kosztovics’s book “Snippor och Snoppar” explores the ideas for children and in 2015, commissioned by the municipality of Malmö, she began a new study conducted as a series of interviews of pre-school staff workers. The research entitled Approaches to child sexuality examines the ability for very early experiences of sexuality to significantly affect identity.

Written by

Lauren Burrows, Researcher, Atlas of the Future (16 December 2015)

Project leader

Anna Kosztovics, Founder

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