Friday, September 28, 2007

Incest in the air… er, swear.

I have always been intrigued by the genealogy of the two ancient-as-the-hills, incest-loaded swear words of choice in India, cultured India not excluded. and My very first childhood acquaintance with them was in the boisterous bezique sessions that used to be held every week-end at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I noticed my father never using them but neither objecting to nor minding his friends using them even with me hovering around all the while. Even now, I keep hearing the same usual suspects being bandied around off and on all over the place. Nobody – neither the swear word user nor the swear word listener – seems the least bit embarrassed by the sudden expletive. Of late, I’ve even overheard seemingly respectable women freely resorting to them – without batting a just-glued eyelid. I have a feeling these once potent expletives have lost their original intended “swear” meaning and continue to exist as empty impotent shells. In Marathi, we have a word for it: tondi lavne. In other words, something to improve the taste on the tongue. Like pickle and chutney, for instance. With some, the insertion of these expletives in speech substitutes endearment or acts as an attention-catching device. Given the reality of the swear world, I guess there’s no point either wondering about or investigating their genealogy. QED.

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