Thursday, February 26, 2009


Contemptuous Crepitation

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Book VII, Chapter III (Squire Western addressing his sister):
"Ho! are you come back to your politics?" cries the squire: "as for those I despise them as much as I do a f--t." Which last words he accompanied and graced with the very action, which, of all others, was the most proper to it.
This may be as close as anything comes to being a cultural universal — breaking wind as a sign of contempt.

See S. Douglas Olson, Broken Laughter: Select Fragments of Greek Comedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 242 (on Epicrates, fragment 10.29):
κατέπαρδ(ε) αὐτῶν: 'farted on them' (< καταπέρδομαι), as a sign of contempt, as at Ar. V. 618; Pax 547; Pl. 617-18.
Similarly Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 197 (#429):
One can express contempt by breaking wind in the direction of someone else. The terms are καταπέρδεσθαι and προσπέρδεσθαι. There seems to be no difference in nuance between the two. At V 618 Philocleon's wine-flask (ὄνος) makes a gurgling sound which Philocleon interprets as a contemptuous crepitation (κατέπαρδεν): note κεχηνώς (617) and the pun on ὄνος, ass. Similarly, the mattock-maker at P 547 breaks wind at the sword-maker, and Blepsidemus does likewise for Poverty at PL 618; cf. also Epicr. 11.28. All of the latter have καταπέρδεσθαι. προσπέρδεσθαι appears in the same meaning at R 1074, Sosip. 1.12, Damox. 2.39.
The insult "I fart in your general direction!" occurs in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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