witzel at husc3.harvard.edu witzel at husc3.harvard.edu
Fri Nov 15 18:31:35 UTC 1996

On Tue, 12 Nov 1996, George Thompson wrote:

> I'd like to apologize to Michael Witzel for talking about things which
> clearly he knows more about than I do.

Apology accepted, though I don't know for what. Wem der Schuh passt....

While philology is not, to quote one of my colleagues here, "the study of *a*
word" -- *this* word, but occasionally precisely this is required,  as, to
re-quote our 1988 symposium, "philology is kulturwissenschaft based on
texts".  And since yabh also is part of culture, philology occasionally
involves this and similar words. 
I must confess that I don't know whether, as philologist, and even while
studying these rather short words, I really know more about this topic
than G. Thompson, unless he should obliquely refer to my sustained experience
here which indeed has mostly included the passive (though not the
desiderative passive). 

But what to do -- ke garne, amerika jasto cha -- when,
according to that great observer of American popular culture, Eddi Murphy,
his foreign admirers tend to address him on the street with the
imperative, since they think that it is an American greeting. 

However, I *can* readily confess that I had to study the Vedic side of the
coin recently when I had to write on Saramaa, the cunning bitch of the
Lord of the Powers that Be.  (RV 10.108, JB 2.440).


Finally, a note to Dominik: 

If I understood him correctly: Yes, "obscenities" certainly are different
from erotic topics (Fiser/Wezler deal with both), but the word in question
ALWAYS has been regarded as low level/vulgar/obscene, as ancient and later
evidence show: at other occasions the Sruti uses sam-gam, sam-i etc. 
("sangam hogaa vaa nahin?" -- Lata sings, to quote an old film song (1959?),
for the Hindi-wallahs among us). 

That's why I quoted some of the Sruti evidence: we find *intended*
vulgarities/obscenities even here, not to speak of the dialogue in the
Srautasutras at the solstice rituals. Remember the Holi discussion? -- Just
like in modern Nepal where such (Newari) words are openly used on the
street in Holi-like festivals *only*, they were openly employed at certain
Vedic rituals, -- for the intended effect. 

For similar reasons, conversely, we do *not* find in the Veda certain
"vulgar" words, such as pardati, not even of horses, but only in
Dhatupatha +, though this word must of course have been used then: it is 
an old IE word (cf. Avesta and beyond, up to Engl.: IE *perd/pezd), and 
consequently, very much loved by UK and US comedians. 


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