Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Farting and Cultural Understanding (PARP)

Since I've heard often enough that English people are unusually reticent to talk about bodily functions, I make no assumptions about other people's willingness to talk about them. This makes it very difficult for me to know what Polish attitudes are.

There is no reason for bodily functions to be standard topics of conversation, so I have little guide from listening to and talking to Polish people generally. I don't follow TV that much, but again, why should they mention bodily functions, whether they're considered too boring or too risque? I do get some impression at home, but one family group cannot be considered representative of people generally. Even if I did have wider information, however, I suspect that I could not fully appreciate any subtleties of approach: I would probably have to have been through a childhood family and school learning process to do this.

'Farting' is often considered a vulgar term in English: indeed, I feel reluctance in saying it. Trying to think objectively, this is very strange. I can be polite about other things and have no problem with defecating and urinating. (Sorry, whilst that is true, I should have said : "I have no problem with 'defecating' and 'urinating' ".) However, I only have euphemisms for 'farting', such as 'breaking wind'. Indeed, the word 'fart' is very old: it goes back at least to Middle English; the action is completely normal and, as far as I know, done by everybody at some stage or other; one would expect a non-offensive single word to exist in such cases, but there isn't one. I thought of 'flatulence', but this is excessive gas in the digestive system generally, with a fart being its external expression. I checked this in a number of dictionaries to be sure, so I failed to be swayed by English Wikipedia's incorrect description.

What about Polish? My dictionary gives three basic variations, one of which, the most common I think, (pierdzieć) has the same origin as 'fart'. However, even though the Polish dictionary I looked at labels this vulgar, I have no idea what emotional content it really has, nor, for that matter, whether it is one of those words which is in theory vulgar, but which everyone uses so much that they don't realise it.

'Fart' is a Polish word as well, but I think it means something like 'a lucky streak'.

Funnily enough, though, I do know another Polish word for 'fart' that I didn't find in the dictionaries. I had to check the internet for actual use, which confirmed it. The joke below is a translated example. I don't find the joke particularly funny, but I used to know people from the Polska Agencja Rozwoju Przedsiębiorczości (Polish Agency for Enterprise Development) and I always felt that I should explain what PARP meant in English, which I don't think I ever had the courage to do. In honour of their 10th Birthday - and I am not trying to insult them and their work, I correct my previous failure.

Two gays get into a taxi. Suddenly one says:
- I′m sorry, do you mind if I fart (pryknąć)?
The Driver replies:
- No, that's OK
- Psssssssssss
On this, the second says:
- I′m sorry, me too?
- OK
- Psssssssssss
Then the driver:
- I′m sorry, do you mind if I do it as well? The gays nod.
- Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaarp!!!
At this, the gays:
- Ooo virgin!

The only thing now is, when I reread this in the future, will I have gone some way towards exorcising a cultural demon in myself, or will my inhibitions remain as strong as ever and I'll just feel embarrassed? How about you?

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