smelly, boring, funny

An easy riddle: What is smelly, boring, and funny?

Answer: A fart. We speak of farts being smelly, of someone being a boring old fart, and of course farts are funny. Like other jokes, they are unexpected, and they can literally take the air out of a serious moment. There is a long history of flatulence in literature; Aristophanes’ The Clouds is redolent with fart jokes.

However, for older English-Spanish bilingual chemists, something else might be smelly, boring, funny: Br. 

Bromine (Br) is a pungent gas. Even as a chemist, I have never smelled it, but based on its group mates, I can certainly believe it. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, as well as my hardcover edition of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, bromine is directly derived from the Greek βρῶμος. Etymologeek concurs that βρῶμος is the original stem, while providing the French word brome (a type of plant) as an intermediary word. Liddell / Scott defines βρῶμος as “stink, noisome smell”.

The name for the bromide ion derives immediately from its elemental name. Beyond the use of the term in chemistry, bromide also has an old-time sense, dating back to the turn of the previous century. Because bromide salts were commonly used as sedatives, the term bromide came to refer to dull, conventional people, as well as the trite, boring expressions they espoused. 

En español, una broma es un chiste o una travesura que se hacer reírse. Por lo tanto, en otras palabras, es una cosa graciosa. Según Etymologeek, su etimología es la palabra griega antigua βρῶμα. Sin embargo, no puedo encontrar βρῶμα en la versión Perseus de Liddell / Scott, excepto como acusativo de βρῶμος. Es extraño; no sé si esta etimología es correcta, porque maloliente no es lo mismo que gracioso!

There might be a third answer: This blog entry itself. Some could find it humorous; others might see only the boring reflection of an old fart. Oh, but it’s not smelly enough, you say? Well, just print this out on soft paper. You could then wipe these words from your mind as well as ass.

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