On my way home from an automobile service appointment yesterday morning I saw a billboard on Interstate 40 West in Nashville that cracked me up despite myself. It read:
Actually, a friend of mine snapped a picture of the billboard in question by using her camera phone. Here it is:
Now hear me: I loathe advertisements. Between my TiVo, my iPod, and all of the blood, sweat, and tears I've invested in direct marketing opt-out campaigning, you'd think I would have filtered this particular billboard out of my consciousness, but no...there it was, front and center in my field of vision. The billboard's color scheme was simple: white text on a red background (at least I think that's what the color scheme was—I happen to be profoundly colorblind).
Nevertheless, given the fact that I abhor advertisements, I made an exception for this one because it made me laugh out loud. (And yes, I find stuff like college prank viral videos uproariously funny as well. Get over yourselves.)
Later that evening, my wife and I drove by that same billboard on our way back home from a first-time dinner experience at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant (sidenote: I cannot recommend Maggiano's to you; the food is mediocre, hardly dietetic, and the establishment's operating philosophy obviously panders to an obese American culture).
Probably because Susan is a graphic designer, she was able to detect was I was not; namely, that the design of the "I pooted" billboard matched the design of the billboard on its opposite side. As it happened, the billboard on the opposite side of the roadside display was an advertisement for our local digital cable company. Its ad copy mentioned something about "You would understand blah blah blah if blah blah blah."
This comments thread at Katastrophes blog mentions that the "I pooted" statement might be a reference to the Cartoon Network show Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Evidently one of the characters on this show says or said "I pooted" (although I enjoy cartoons, Foster's isn't one of them).
Therefore, perhaps the "I pooted" deal is a gambit on the part of Comcast Digital Cable to stir up controversy around town that "Hey, in order to get 'cool content' I need to sign up for cable TV! That way I'll understand cryptic references like 'I pooted!' Yay!" Whatever. Kill me now. [NOTE: Upon further reflection and research, I have since changed my mind on this hypothesis and I now believe that this billboard campaign is solely funded by the Cartoon Network. Please see the update at the conclusion of this post for more details. Thanks. -Tim]
I'm not here today to discuss the merits of digital cable with you. Instead, I'd like to discuss the word poot specifically. After all, this is an etymology and language blog, correct?
Check out Urban Dictionary's entry for poot to begin. However, you may agree with me that UD's entry is none too helpful. It is better than nothing, though. Screw it—I'm just going to cut to the chase and tender my own "homegrown" definition for poot: this word is an onomatopoeic euphemism for the process of expelling flatus, or, to use what is perhaps the most common slang term, farting.
The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the word fart is "not in decent use." Ahem...okay. It defines the noun fart as "a breaking wind." That definitional entry is plumb weird to me. Let's check out the verb definition in the OED. The verb fart is defined in the OED as "to break wind."
Etymologically, fart derives from the Old English word feortan, which was an imitative word that evidently meant the same thing that our fart does.
What is the deal with the archaic meanings here?
Incidentally, we can obtain a more progressive definition for the verb fart from Merriam-Webster Online. Those folks define the verb as vulgar slang: "to expel intestinal gas from the anus."
Boy howdy, I'll never, ever forget when I was in seventh grade any my old pal Marc ran up to me in our middle school library with this huge Cheshire grin on his face and said "Timmy, Timmy, guess what? I looked up 'fart' in the library dictionary and it said that it's a 'minor explosion between the legs'!!!!"
Sure enough, Marc was correct. Both our middle school library and my Grandpa Cook had matching Funk and Wagnalls unabridged dictionaries—yes, those ginormous, foot-thick 'Wildebeast' editions that I was physically incapable of lifting off of their wooden display stands. My buddies and I used to have so much fun looking up 'dirty words' and tittering wildly at the Victorian definitions we'd discover.
No foolin'—that dictionary defined fart as a "minor explosion between the legs." Good lord. It has been 25 years since I performed that lookup. Time flies when you're havin' fun.
UPDATE 06-23-06: As of this date there appears to be an abundance of anecdotal evidence (though nothing official, at least to my knowledge) that this series of humorous billboards is, in fact, a viral marketing campaign on the part of the Cartoon Network, of which "I Pooted" may have been the flagship display.
Here are some of the other billboard quotes in this series, along with their Cartoon Network 'toon sources (if you can help me out with the unknown ones, I'd be grateful):
- "Look, I have a meat beard." -Camp Lazlo
- "Pretty pretty. shiny shiny." -My Gym Partner's a Monkey
- "Clowns hate tangelos." -The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
- "I’m a hot toe picker." -Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
- "My boogers itch." -???
- "The hat sells the sandwich." -Squirrel Boy (per Fletcher)