In the nose of the beholder
What do you say when you discover something is rotten in Denmark?
If you're Egyptian you squint your eyes, pinch your nostrils between thumb and forefinger, and exclaim "Eff!"
Just across the Sinai Desert, an Israeli would react with a disgusted "Phooey!"
Meanwhile, your offended Lebanese would make a face and say "Tfoo!" while a Russian would do the nose pinch routine accompanied by a statement to the effect, "Foo, what a nightmare!"
According to recent research deposited with the American neuropsychiatric Association, reactions to bad smells is all in the brain. A neurostructure the amygdala sends out the signals, and the various responses appear to be cultural.
North Americans generally pinch their noses and say "Peee-yew!" and Argentines exclaim "Uff!"
Sons of Nippon say "Kusai!" or, more informally amongst the guys, "Kusee!" Refined Japanese women reportedly grimace and cover nose and mouth with one hand.
The French, in general, are more expressive: their "Pouah!" is often accompanied by nose wrinkling, mouth twisting, and a pulling back of the head.
And a Mexican would want to know "What died?"
Not what, amigo, where. Denmark, of course.
Copyright © John Mahoney 1997
Log Cabin Chronicles/4.97