One of the most common expletives in North India (and I’m sure elsewhere) begins with ‘chu’. It is naturally uncivil and, you guessed it, ‘unparliamentary’. What is interesting is that some locals dampen the auditory (but not the semantic) blow of the word by replacing ‘chu’ with ‘phu’.
I was introduced to this linguistic legerdemain back in 1999 by a friend who had recently migrated from Agra to Delhi. The first time I heard this verbal innovation, I was blown away! And not just because it is so sly; also because it is so hilariously, utterly slapstick! The innocent me protested: “But people will still understand!” My wise friend replied, “That’s the whole point!”
I was reminded of this episode thanks to our favourite people – the honourable members of parliament. They were recently ordered to redact certain words in their mental dictionary that the bosses feel are offensive and have no place in the permanent records of the hallowed institution.
[Sidebar: ‘hallowed’ is one letter shy of ‘hollowed’]
Some of those words are arguably quotidian – like ‘corrupt’, ‘drama’, ‘ashamed’, or ‘bullshit’. And some words are professional technical terms that parliamentarians use to describe the work of their rivals. For instance, ‘eyewash’, ‘dictatorial’, or ‘crocodile tears’. One fails to understand how is one supposed to do their work if they’re not supplied with their specialised tools?!
Now, this is where the North Indian morpheme magic comes in. People’s representatives are a hardy lot – thick-skinned and shrewd. I’m nearly absolutely sure they’ll find a way to jury-rig their vocabulary to sidestep the restrictions placed upon them. So I wonder if they’ll use the ‘phu’ trick to mean what they mean without saying what want to say. For instance, ‘phurrupt’ or ‘phullshit’ or ‘phuctatorial’.
[Sidebar: ‘jury-rig’ has nothing to do with either the judiciary or elections]
Phun times ahead!