A dictionary that redefines words with humour
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat results when over a thousand words are redefined highlighting the pliability of the English language and the pleasures of interpretation?
A dictionary for serious humour enthusiasts which seeks to expose the debauched, the ribald, the irreverent, and the non-conformist side of seemingly honest, god-fearing words and phrases.Mumbai-based P V Subramaniam, a dentist by profession, has come out with a fun and light-hearted version of the English dictionary. Published by Fingerprint!, “Dictionary of English: The Udder Side” is about wit, sarcasm, ribaldry, and a wee of humour, punctuated by illustrations by Mark Wood.
So an ‘anchor’ is a TV personality you wish you could drop into the sea while a ‘baby’ is a joint venture between hardware and software. A ‘bank’ is a prospective father-in-law, a ‘beer’ a malt beverage that passes directly from one’s mouth to one’s bladder, ‘bigamy’ once bitten, twice smitten, ‘intuition’ is sixth sense found in women; In men, it’s tough to find even one and ‘Pharaoh’ is mummy who became daddy.
“I had always wondered if one could bring the stodgy dictionary out of its Victorian closet and imbue it with some entertainment value, especially given the dearth of good humour ever since the inimitable P G Wodehouse met his Sunset at Blandings,” says Subramaniam.
“On the flip side, my deep-seated research into words helped me see beyond their obvious import. Puns are handy, and though the English language abounds with them, a close, critical look at my tattered dictionary revealed that many words lend themselves to a much more liberal interpretation than most editors would admit to in public.”
He says he “put on my dour face, gritted my teeth, and decided to chip away at words till they exuded at least a wan smile, if not a full chortle”.
So he describes ‘civil servant’ as a complete misnomer, alluding to persons neither civil not serving; ‘duet’ an assault on both the eardrums; ‘gastronomy’ the study of flatulence in outer space; ‘jail’ a jolly place where you could check out the bars everyday; ‘judge’ a chap who gets his sentences right by trial and error; ‘life’ the saga of womb to tomb and ‘yoga’ pose repose.
According to Subramaniam, his “trusted old dictionary is a great companion”, and he has “unabashedly turned to it many times for unravelling one troublesome word or two”.
“The words inside the dictionary have always had a magical allure…They always pull me deep into state of reverie…”
He says while describing words in his book, he found “some alphabets were prolific, but others like ‘Q’ and ‘Z’ put up a stiff fight before being drawn into the humorous net”.
Finally, he found himself “sitting atop a pile of words with their bare bones sticking out and a small doubt nagging me – what if somebody reading my version of a word could not conjure up the visual imagery needed to get their ribs tickled?” That’s when he roped in Wood who “drew the illustrations exactly as I had imagined them”.