On the Rag and many other Period Euphemisms

Menstruation: The regular discharge of blood and mucosal tissue from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina.

This is part of the menstrual cycle where, if a pregnancy doesn’t happen, the uterine lining sheds. Then the cycle starts again. The menstrual phase (usually 3-7 days) is the first of four stages of the cycle (which typically lasts for a total of approximately 28 days). Given that approximately 50% of the world's population, since the beginning of humanity, menstruate approximately every 28 days from puberty to menopause (approximately 40 years) you’d think we’d be comfortable talking about it right?

No we’re not! It’s such a taboo subject there are euphemisms the world round. In the UK we typically refer to menstruation as having a “period” but there are some far more creative and amusing phrases and terms which you might have come across. Here are some of our favourites and read on to find out some of their origins!

Little more than 100 years ago, menstrual hygiene options were still somewhat limited. According to historians, the most common solution was the use of pieces of cloth (rags) bundled together and placed between the legs up against the vagina. From this comes the phrase “on the rag”. All we can say is thank goodness for the invention of menstrual cups!

Despite our best efforts to manage our menstrual flow, most of us if not all have had an incident or two that we’d rather forget. Perhaps a reference to the staining of underwear might be the common term “she’s got the painters in”?

It is believed by some that fertility, particularly ovulation, is linked to the moon cycle. The theory is that ovulation occurs around the same time as a full moon and that cycles can be regulated by keeping your bedside lamp on during the 3 days of ovulation. I’m not convinced but nevertheless, it’s easy to understand where the association and term “moon time” comes from!

The list is endless, sometimes crude, sometimes rude. One thing is certain though, few people are comfortable with “I am menstruating”. We believe it’s time to break down those misconceptions, stigmas and taboos by not hiding periods behind euphemisms and . But that’s not to say we can’t have a giggle.