Monday, January 2, 2012

The Doorable Blah Vocabulary

I have more or less established by now (assuming you’ve been reading my blog for a while) that my family is just a little bit cuckoo. And by family, I mean my immediate family – not including the likes of an aunt by marriage, who dreamt one night that her husband had swallowed their wind chime. She awoke in the middle of the night and attempted to push her hand down his throat to rescue her beloved wind chime, while he, rudely awoken from a deep slumber, gurgled for help. There’s a fine line between stark raving mad and quirky and we, the Blahs, have yet to cross it.

If a Blah were convinced of a prized possession being down a man’s gullet, he/she would tell him he had sheer “gumption” sending “bumf” down his throat. Now, while the dictionary shows “gumption” to mean “the quality of being sensible and brave enough to do the right thing in a difficult situation”, the Blah dictionary holds that it is the “quality of being cheeky, brazen and having the sheer gall to do the wrong thing in any situation.”

My mother’s vocabulary would be down to 50% if the word gumption were taken away from her. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Gumption, and the Word was Gumption. A phone call from my mother is filled with anecdotes about the sheer gumption of the drunken woman labourer who ran amuck in the nude, the gumption of my boisterous dog who gave her a black eye and the gumption of the person who left a single slipper on the road and disappeared.

“Bumf” in a normal (archaic) dictionary refers to unwanted or uninteresting printed matter such as governmental forms, legal documents, The Times of India, junk mail, promotional pamphlets, Bangalore Mirror's Sexpert column etc. The Blahs have adapted the word to explain away any otherwise inexplicable junk. Bumf is a very handy term. It saves you the time and energy of having to supply long explanations about say, the contents of a drawer. “What’s in the drawer? Oh, just some bumf.” Nobody ever attempts to question any more. You never question bumf. You just accept it. “Some bumf” is good enough. It effectively qualifies everything from a speckle of food on someone’s chin to the putrid carcass the dog dragged in to the strange greeny-grey mold on an abandoned vegetable in the refrigerator.

Bumf is not to be confused with another Blah word “bum fluff”. Bum fluff refers to a scraggly pre-pubescent-type mustache. This word belongs to my maternal uncle, who maintains that such weak attempts at a mustache resemble the “hair on a bum”. I have never worked up the courage to ask anything further.

And if you happen to touch some bumf (or bum fluff for that matter), make sure you wash your hands with the “bum soap”. That’s right. The bum soap – the bar of soap placed on/near the wash basin meant for washing of hands. I’m not sure just how it came to be referred to as “bum soap”. I suspect my father coined the term and we children, thoroughly amused, adopted it. My mum faced the embarrassing consequences of such learning when my brother Scion once hollered from one end of the supermarket, “Hey, Ma! Do we need bum soap?” He remained oblivious to the stunned expressions of fellow shoppers while my mother tried unsuccessfully to bury herself in a sack of wheat flour while muttering something about God smiting firstborns. When he, convinced his mother was hard of hearing, shouted again about the lack of enough bum soap in the house, my mother responded with “Grr Wolf! I heard you the first time.”

“Grr Wolf!” for the Blahs is an expression of extreme exasperation. Attaching a growling animal to the otherwise meek and mild “Grr” sort of drives home the point apparently. No vulgar expletives for us Blahs. Grr Wolf usually works for just about any sort of aggravating situation. The need for stronger or cruder cuss words or commonplace vulgar expressions does not arise. However, for a particularly sticky situation, we do resort to the much harder hitting expletive “Shit ‘n molasses”.

Now, I am not sure how exactly this expression came about. But I suppose having shit in your molasses or shit and molasses are both bad things. “Shit ‘n molasses” is a Blah Code Red.

A “shit ‘n molasses” moment would be the opposite of a Blah “door you” moment. “Door you” is an expression of affection. Now, we aren’t exactly the most emotionally expressive family. Everyone keeps a stiff upper lip during any sort of upheaval, which would leave normal families blubbering a bit like the ones in Indian television soaps. However, as a kid, this was the one expression of affection we resorted to. When I was four, I would exchange “Good nights” and “Door Yous” with my folks last thing at night and then spend the next few minutes staring at the door, wondering what that plank of wood had to do with anything. It took me a few years to realise it was just a Blah way of saying “I adore you”.

The expression works for us. In fact, they all do – all these somewhat unique expressions. I door them all and no one can tell me any differently.