Piercing slang terms! For as long as piercing has been around, different people have used different terms to refer to the same piercing, piece of jewelry, or concept. In modern times, with the internet, regional slang, and different subcultures, this has become more common. It also sometimes creates a communication issue where a client thinks they are saying or asking for something, and they are in fact asking for something entirely different. So today, let’s break down a bunch of piercing slang, and the proper terminology for each one.
Conch Vs Orbital
There is one mislabeled ear piercing diagram floating in every nook and cranny of the internet and if I knew who made it I would yell at them. It incorrectly labels a conch wearing a ring as an orbital piercing, and this singular diagram has been a cause of confusion and miscommunication between clients and piercers in studios around the world. An orbital piercing is a piercing with a ring or custom bent piece of jewelry, that passes through two separate piercings. Orbitals can be done all over the ear, from lobe orbitals to conch orbitals, to conch-to-helix orbitals. These piercings tend to be advanced piercings that are difficult to heal. Meanwhile, a conch is usually a pretty easy piercing to heal, and does heal much better with a stud than a hoop.
Plugs Vs Gauges
This is an age old one. Gauge is the unit of measurement that we use to measure the thickness of jewelry (you can read more about this here). Plugs are the jewelry worn in stretched piercings, most commonly stretched lobes. Many folks accidentally call plugs gauges. This used to be something hotly debated but fortunately folks have calmed down about that. This miscommunication isn’t as big as some others because most folks generally understand what you mean. That being said, the proper term is in fact plugs for the jewelry, gauge for the unit of measurement.
Snake Bites Vs Paired Labrets
A labret piercing is any piercing through the lower lip. It can be centered, off to one side, closer to the lip or lower down. Paired labrets therefore means any paired set of lower lip piercings. A more central placement, a more spaced out placement, and everywhere in-between. Somewhere along the line the internet decided this was too vague and made a million different nicknames for different lip piercing placements. Snakebites became arguably the most popular. The issue is some people say snake bites and mean paired labrets spaced out, some mean paired labrets centered, some people mean two on one side. The meaning changes regionally. It’s much easier for us piercers to simple tell us you want paired labrets or two labret piercings, and either point to your desired placement or show us a photo.
Cyber Bites/Dolphin Bites/ Canine Bites/ Angel Bites, any form of bites Vs Paired Lip Piercings (upper or lower)
Just like snake bites but arguably more confusing and the source of miscommunication are all of the different “bites” folks ask for. And again, terms mean different things on different diagrams and regionally, so someone asking for angel bites one day may mean paired Monroe piercings, and the next may be asking me for an aligned Monroe and labret. For the ease of communication with your piercer, please just either show us a photo, point to where you want, and use more literal terms. Paired upper lip piercings, Paired labrets, a philtrum and a labret. This is much easier for us, and prevents miscommunication over the location and placement you are looking for.
Medusa Vs Philtrum
A philtrum piercing, as named, is a piercing through the philtrum or cupids bow of the upper lip. The slang term for this is a medusa piercing. Many piercings have straight forward names like this where they are named for the anatomy. Fortunately medusa has widespread use for a philtrum, so most folks will understand what you mean. Still, the technical term is a philtrum and it makes communication much easier when you use proper terms.
Ashley Vs Inverse Vertical Labret
An inverse vertical labret, as the name sounds, is a piercing that goes through the lip, inverse to a vertical labret. The front sits on the pink of the lip, and the back exist through the lip on the inside. These piercings are super cute and super unique! They are sometimes called an Ashley piercing, which can lead to confusion and miscommunication as Ashley can be slang for other piercings as well. I know inverse vertical labret is a mouthful, but it is the proper terminology, and will definitely prevent miscommunication with your piercer.
Venoms Vs Paired Tongue Piercings
Venoms or Venom Piercing is a slang term for Bilateral Paired Tongue Piercings, aka two tongue piercings lined up on either side of the tongue. While bilateral paired tongue piercings is a huge mouthful, paired tongue piercings gets the same point across and still with accuracy. Venoms is sometimes slang for other piercings, but most often paired tongue piercings. Theres less miscommunication with this then others, but proper terminology is important!
“Bindi” or Third Eye Piercing Vs Vertical Bridge or Forehead Surface Piercing
A vertical bridge is a surface piercing done with a surface bar vertically through the forehead, and falls under the umbrella of forehead surface piercings (which also includes microdermals in that same placement). Some people have taken to calling these piercings Bindi piercings after the Hindi forehead adornment. This is culturally appropriative and many Hindi members of the community have asked for this term not to be used unless you are of Hindu faith. Likewise for third eye piercing. Technical terms are especially important here, out of respect for the cultural significance these words have for many POC.
Constellation Piercings and Ear Curations
Constellation piercings often is an umbrella term referring to any intentionally places and setup series of piercings, often with delicate gold jewelry. These can be on lobes, on helixes and flats, or even encompass an entire ear. Constellation piercings often have placement selected by a piercer to flatter clients anatomy. Myself and many other piercers consider these simply another form of ear curation. If this is what you are after bring reference photos of what you like, so we can get a feel for for your style and preference!
Cartilage Piercing Vs Helix/Flat/Conch
Often clients come in and ask for a cartilage piercing. This is confusing for a few reasons for us. First of all, the entire ear beyond the lobe is cartilage. So asking to pierce your cartilage could realistically be referring to any part of the ear. And because of this, while most commonly clients use cartilage to refer to a helix, many also use it to refer to flats and conches, and sometimes entirely different piercings. It’s helpful to use the specific placement you desire so we make sure we are on the same page with what you want done.
Jewelry Vs Piercing
“Yeah, I need a new nose piercing?” “Ok, so you want to be pierced?” “No no, I’m already pierced, I just need a new piercing for it, mine fell out.” This interaction happens at studios around the world, quite often. Folks accidentally referring to jewelry as a piercing. And it unfortunately creates a lot of misunderstanding. When we hear the word piercing, we always assume you mean the act of creating a new piercing in your body. Many people however use piercing interchangeably with the jewelry they wear in their piercings. This creates a lot of miscommunication for piercers and clients!
Male and Female Genital Piercings Vs Penile and Vulva Piercings
Piercing’s don’t have a gender! Their aren’t “male” piercings or “female” piercings. Yes, even when it comes to genital piercings, since not every man has a penis and not every women has a vulva and some folks don’t identify as male or female at all! Like other piercings, it’s much easier to use correct anatomical terms when discussing these piercings. Are we piercing a vulva or a penis? This communicates the exact anatomy that is being worked on, without trying to impose gender on something that isn’t gendered at all.
Slang terms are cute, but using proper terminology is really important to prevent miscommunication and issues with your piercer! To make sure you are going to get the piercing or jewelry you want, and everything is communicated clearly, using proper terms is essential!