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Ellen Pompeo Wasn’t Allowed to Say One Particular Word on Grey’s Anatomy

Ellen Pompeo Wasn't Allowed to Say One Particular Word on Grey's Anatomy

Ellen Pompeo couldn’t say one word on Grey’s Anatomy.

Ellen Pompeo, one of the leading women fighting for equality in Hollywood and across the industry, recently disclosed the one word she was not permitted to say on “Grey’s Anatomy” during the debut season.

Pompeo, 51, spoke with Jimmy Kimmel last week following the Season 17 premiere, with the shocking return of one of its most beloved characters.

There was a big fight — I may be butchering this story but — there was a big fight because with standards and practices, which I’m sure you deal with on occasion, you can say ‘penis,’ but you couldn’t say ‘vagina,’ at the time.

Pompeo, one of Hollywood’s most influential actresses, earning more than $20 million a year as per The Hollywood Reporter, also announced “Grey’s” long-time showrunner Shonda Rhimes, 50, had actually coined an ever-popular word as a replacement.

And that’s why … That’s where the term ‘va-jay-jay’ came from. [Shonda Rhimes] made up ‘va-jay-jay’ because standards and practices would not let us say ‘vagina.’ And Shonda‘s argument was like, ‘We said ‘penis’ in that episode 97 times. You can say ‘penis’ 97 times but you can’t say ‘vagina?

The actress added,

They were like, ‘Yep, yep, you can’t say ‘vagina.’

So she did come up with ‘va-jay-jay’ and that’s how the dilemma was settled.

In the second episode of season 1 titled “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” Pompeo’s Meredith Grey carries a detached penis on the ice in the hospital for the entire episode.

Ellen Pompeo plays Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy.

Ellen Pompeo plays Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy.
Source: TV Guide

Rhimes shed light on the first time she learned the word “va-jay-jay” in a 2006 interview with O, The Oprah Magazine.

Rhimes said,

The network said we were using the word ‘vagina’ too much. I kept saying, ‘It’s a medical show! We can’t say “vagina,” but we can say “penis” a million times in an episode?’

She added,

In one of our first shows, we used the word ‘penis’ about 32 times — but when we said ‘vagina’ twice, the broadcast-standards people blinked. We fought that and won — but ‘va-jay-jay’ is our favorite alternate term.

Rhimes shared she witnessed one of the “Grey’s” employees say “va-jay-jay” and called the word the best thing she’d ever heard.

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Last modified: November 15, 2020