Monday, October 29, 2012

The Other 'F' Word: Fart

     One thing that people often find more fascinating than where common phrases and words come is where the naughty words or 'not polite' words come from. After all, 'passing wind' can be referred to by its medical name (another 'f' word) flatulence, which comes from the Latin (as do many medical terms when they are not derived from Greek) flatulentus(a slow wind?by way of the French or by its common name 'fart'.
      Flatus, the Roman word , is a masculine noun meaning blowing or wind and flatus emittere means sending out wind or farting (which appears in Suetonius as a synonym to crepitus ventris.). However the Romans also had another name for farting: the verb pedo, pedere, pepedi and the part participle, which also could be used as a noun for the thing, peditum. (which the French use commonly, peter)  Clearly the word 'fart' did not come from the Romans.
     As modern German has a similar sounding equivalent 'furz' which sounds like 'farts', our word must be derived from the Germanic Old English. Indeed, one glance at the Oxford English Dictionary shows the OE equivalent is 'feortan' and the earliest reference to it is as 'feorþing' in Aelfric's Glossary, which is very difficult to find in its entirety. I have been unable to find out why Aelfric included it in his glossary which he glossed as 'pedatio' but Bosworth Toller defined as 'crepitus ventris', due to Suetonius, which is idiomatic as 'fart' for the Romans, according to the Oxford Latin Dictionary (and Suetonius). My, they had a lot of words for this! Crepitus ventris is loosely 'a clattering, groaning or noise of the belly'. I would really love to see Aelfric's Glossary to see if he really wrote 'pedatio' because Lewis and Short does not contain this word and the Oxford Latin Dictionary does not either. So, it was not a Roman word, they used peditum, but it could have been a regional Medieval variant.
     The Cleasby-Vigfussun Old Icelandic Dictionary has a related word in it because you know the Vikings would have a word for fart and it is 'fretr' a masculine noun and a verb 'freta'. It also includes a nice compound for a vagabond: fret-karl, fart-man.
     I have wind on my mind since I am sitting here awaiting the arrival or effects of Hurricane Sandy.


Anachronist said...

I hope the hurricane won't make too much fuss in your area!
Even farting can be interesting if you look at it from the right corner :).

The Red Witch said...

so far so good.
Farting and its various euphemisms can be very interesting. :)