March 23: anglo-saxon and farts

There is a word in anglo-saxon (I can’t remember what it is) that means the relationship or kinship between two men who have slept with the same woman. In anglo-saxon times where relationships and status would have been codified and legalised more formally than today such a state of being would probably have implied specific rules or norms of behaviour. Today, depending on individual personality and behaviour, it could imply any number of relational modes. It could be unspoken or the subject of quip or resentment, depending on circumsatnce and character.

There is another word I know to exist but which I have forgotten and, despite my best efforts, cannot trace. It is the word for the noise that you make after you have farted to give the impresssion that the fart was not a fart but another noise, the squeak of a shoe on a floor, a sound emitted from your mouth. I cannot recall whether this word can also refer to burps or any other unseemly exhalation, or indeed whether it is a word that refers to any subsequent act or gesture made with the intention of reconfiguring other people’s interpretation of an earlier act or gesture.  Whatever the word was or still is, it highlights a very useful concept. In retrospect we often rework an earlier act and look to fool others or even ourselves that the earlier act was of the same nature as the latter. They are everyday acts of deception and self-deception that keep our world such a complex minefield.

In fact, like the anglo-saxon word for a co-intimacy-sharer, it is perhaps because there is no ready term that springs to mind for the phenomenon that such ideas are so fertile. A word can lock down a meaning and drill the life out of it.

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