From Aunt Flo to shark week: there are over 5,000 euphemisms used to describe periods

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Americans call it 'the crimson wave' (Cher, we're looking at you), Germans describe it as a 'strawberry week' and, here in the UK, we refer to it as 'that time of the month'.

Yep, we're talking about the names we use to describe our periods.

A new global survey, which included 90,000 people from over 190 countries, found there are no less than 5,000 euphemisms used to describe menstruation.

From the visual ('on the rags') to the bizarre ('shark week'), there are all manner of words and expressions used in place of the humble 'period'.


The survey was undertaken by Clue, a period-tracking app, along with the International Women’s Health Coalition, and is thought to be the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

The most frequently used names to describe periods were Aunt Flo, time of the month, on the rags, red tide, monthly friend and lady time. Other English language entries included Bloody Mary, blob, having the painters in and shark week, which was favoured by Australians.

In Sweden, a period is referred to as ‘Lingonveckan' (lingonberry week) while the Germans are likely to call it ‘Erdbeerwoche’ (strawberry week). Bizarrely, the French call it ‘Les Anglais ont debarqué’, which translates to 'the English have landed'.


The survey, which aimed to examine the societal pressures and taboos that affect women during their period, also found that while 86% of participants were comfortable talking to women about their periods, only 36% were comfortable discussing them with men.

And almost one-fifth of the respondents (17%) reported skipping work or school due to a fear that others would discover they were on their period.

Ida Tin, co-founder and CEO of Clue, believes the results of the survey to be representative of a damaging stigma surrounding women and their periods.

Speaking on the issue, she told the Washington Post, “For you to understand your body and take care of your body you have to first not be ashamed of this part of your life.

"Without cycles there would be no humans on this planet, it’s that fundamental. That taboo is left over from the dark ages.”


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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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