The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Apr 13, 2014

Gaseous Matter

I was thirteen years old when I first encountered the word 'fart'. Until then I had used the expressions 'gas' or 'break wind' in English. You can imagine that a kid saying 'break wind' is unutterably cute, or inexpressibly cloying, but that's the truth of it.

On the other hand, I knew how to say 'fart' in several other languages. Hindi and Malayalam were top on the list. In Delhi, we sang romantic songs with 'paad' replacing words of affection. Hilarity ensued all around. In Russia, where a few years earlier my friends and I had competed to come up with words comprising longer and longer sequences of consonants, 'vzbzdnul' was a wonderful word. When my classmate Misha told me this, I thought he had invented it. Then I heard his mother use the expression 'bzdkom pahnet' (or 'smells of fart'). That cracked me up.

Kids love digestive byproducts. Nothing gives them more joy. In Russia we swapped gastroenterological repartee. If I, for instance, accused someone of something, saying 'it was you, you' (or, in Russian, 'eto byl ty, ty!'), the defendant would respond with 'zhopa nyuhaet tsvety' ('your arse is smelling flowers'), to which I'd say 'zhopa zheleznaya, tsvetam ne poleznaya' ('your arse is of iron and poisonous to flowers') and he'd reply, 'zhopu nyuhal by i ya, tol'ko ochered' tvoya' ('I might have smelt your arse, but it's your turn').

Nobody said it made any logical sense.

These days, it's the boy's turn. The other day a smell pervaded the living room and we looked at him suspiciously. He pretended to be outraged.

'Whoever smelt it, dealt it.'

'Hey,' we said, 'It was not us!'

'Whoever denied it, supplied it.'

We wilted before this rhyming onslaught. The boy laughed and laughed. Then he offered us a way out:

'You should have said - whoever made the rhyme did the crime.'


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