My learned and musical friend zaelic made one of his typically informative comments on Thursday’s post about ROMLEX, the Romani database, in the course of which he documented the Romani “terms for different kinds of fart. One for loud messy ones, and one for silent-but-deadlies.” In Lovari, for instance, they are khaj (noiseless) and ril (audible). Since this has already been picked up by BatesLine (“A commenter to the entry notes that Romani has two words denoting different kinds of flatulence”), I thought I’d point out that this is an ancient Indo-European inheritance (the distinction, not the words themselves): Proto-Indo-European had *pezd- ‘fart silently’ and *perd- ‘fart audibly.’ Russian has preserved these beautifully, as бздеть/набздеть [bzdet’/nabzdét’] and пердеть/пёр(д)нуть [perdét’/pyór(d)nut’] respectively (the former is from the zero grade of the verb, without the -e-, so *pzd- got assimilated to bzd-). I don’t have to provide a complete list of forms, because Angelo of sauvage noble has kindly done so already. An ill wind blows down the millennia…


  1. Besides your набздеть [nabzdét’], бздеть has several other perfective aspect forms expressing fine shades of sending off a fart. The phrase монстр взбзднул (monstr vzbzdnul) has TEN successive consonants, so взбзднуть is my favorite.

  2. English seems to have lost the distinction, probably for the same reasons that it lost the intimate/singular second-person pronoun “thou”.
    The proof is left to the reader.

  3. aldiboronti says

    From Gargantua and Pantagruel, 2, XXVII, in Urquhart’s translation:
    How Pantagruel likewise with his farts begat little men, and with his fisgs little women; and how Panurge broke a great staff over two glasses.
    When Pantagruel saw that, he would have done as much; but with the fart that he let the earth trembled nine leagues about, wherewith and with the corrupted air he begot above three and fifty thousand little men, ill-favoured dwarfs, and with one fisg that he let he made as many little women, crouching down, as you shall see in divers places, which never grow but like cow’s tails, downwards, or, like the Limosin radishes, round. How now! said Panurge, are your farts so fertile and fruitful? By G—, here be brave farted men and fisgued women; let them be married together; they will beget fine hornets and dorflies.
    Fisg, or fisgue, may be Urquhart’s coinage – I don’t know what French word is being translated (if any, Urquhart is notorious for adding to Rabelais). The word isn’t in my OED1 but interestingly enough I have heard the word fizzle used to describe a wet fart.
    URL for the Rabelais passage:

  4. Actually, English does preserve the distinction: check out what the OED has to say about “fizzle.”

  5. Have to say that ‘thou’ is still used extensively in the North Yorkshire villages of my family and by yours truly in a little code-switching on visits to the northern kin…

  6. Actually, English does preserve the distinction: check out what the OED has to say about “fizzle.”
    I think what you mean is “English preserved the distinction until fairly recently”; the OED labels fizzle (in that sense) obsolete, and I have no reason to think otherwise. But I’m glad I checked, because fizzle is based on the earlier fise, of which Grose (1823) gives the following delightful definition: “a small windy escape backwards.”

  7. You know, the word ??????/????????, in russian is not very beautiful… inversely, it is considered as a bad word… or a joke. It happens because the root “??????” is an abuse in russian =). ???? ?????, ??? ??????? ???? – ????? ???????! ??? ???!

  8. Kate: I tried e-mailing you but your address didn’t work. Could you e-mail me the Cyrillic that didn’t come through so I can fix your comment? I’m dying to know what it says!

  9. Postscript: Months later, in a New York bookshop, I came across the Grove Press edition of “Foirades.” Beckett’s English-language title: “Fizzles.”

  10. Arabic has words for both kinds of … er.. human gaseous discharges as well.
    fasa – To fart silently
    DaraTa – to fart noisily
    لا تصلي وراء فااسي
    and a proverb, don’t pray behind someone from Fez (the word for someone from Fez is also the active participle for someone who farts silently)
    My two cents

  11. I can see this is going to be one of those unexpectedly educational threads! Where else is one going to get this information? Other languages, please chime in!

  12. I didn’t know any languages beside Pulaar made that distinction! My siblings will be delighted with this discovery. In my childhood in Mauritania, we used two separate verbs for farting: wooshti [fart audibly] [“oo” as in US English “cookie”] and suini [fart silently].

  13. Hmm … I only know utot [ʔutót] in Tagalog for ‘fart’, which doesn’t specify volume.

  14. I just checked my Pulaar dictionary and found two completely different words from the ones ilselieve mentions: puttude and riidde. No mention of volume differential.

  15. John Hames says

    I have been trying to find the specific Pulaar verb “to fart” for months. In the Tooroodo village where I’m now living, the people refer to farting as “woppugol hendu.” Amusingly, one of the women in our compound asked me the other night (only pulaar is spoken there)what types of farts are “buri luub” the silent or noisy ones. However, she asked me by imitating the sounds. “Puttugol” might be it but you now how tricky pulaar can be with its countless dialects.
    on jaaraama,
    a peace corps volunteer in the gambia

  16. Wow, thanks! The range of locations and experiences I hear from on this blog never ceases to amaze me.

  17. It has been speculated that such a semantic difference existed between the Latin verbs pedere and vissire. Cf. J. N. Adams’ The Latin Sexual Vocabulary p/ 249 (which cites this charming inscription: vissire tacite Chilon docuit subdolus

  18. Spanish have “pedo” and “zurrón”, as atested by Salvador Dalí in his essay “Elogio al Pedo” (Elegy to the Fart).

  19. Here’s a saying to better remember the Russian pair:
    Лучше пёрнуть по-геройски, чем предательски набздеть!

  20. Alon Lischinsky says

    @Kame: do you have a citation for that Dalí piece? I can’t find any references to it, at least by that name.

    In any case, the term does not seem to have any currency in Spanish; there are no citations for zurrón with that meaning in the whole of CREA or CORDE.

  21. David Marjanović says

    This is an area where the German language is hopelessly inadequate.

  22. AFAIK, in Catalan, “silent but deadly” is “una llufa”–if I’m wrong, perhaps someone will correct me. Otherwise, it’s just a “pet”.

  23. Yup, my dictionary has

    llufa f. silent fart. fig. fer ~, to flop, to fail.
    llufar-se p. to fart silently.

  24. A friend of mine was in the Peace Corps in Iran in the late 60’s. He said that Farsi had several words for varieties of farts. I did not ask for the specifics.

  25. Lars (the original one) says

    That *pezd-/*perd- pair looks suspiciously like a common origin differentiated by sound symbolism…

    Swedish still has fisa and fjärta with good IE roots and preserved senses. I can’t tell you if there are sound laws explaining the different vocalism or it’s the usual small/large symbolism, but it seems to be that way all over Germanic.

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