Open wide for laughter

Sep 12, 2013, 07:38 IST | Vidya Heble

Laughing gas may no longer be used in dentistry, but this tooth doctor has brought out a mega-dose of chuckles in his 'Dictionary of English'. Here is a peek into the punny pages, and a brief chat with the author

D is for dictionary, and also for dentist. One is often considered boring and the other often practises boring into your teeth. P V Subramaniam bridges the gap between these two unlikely worlds with The Udder Side, his quirky dictionary of English. Being a dentist may not be the ideal precondition for writing a humour book, but Subramaniam has proved that nothing is impossible.

And has he bitten off more than he can chew? Not if the final product is anything to go by dipping into the pages left our colleagues chuckling, and readers can judge for themselves from the excerpts we have reproduced. The wacky illustrations by Mark Wood complement the oddball definitions well, and the book makes for a good gift, as well as a conversation starter on your side table.

PV Subramaniam
PV Subramaniam

Anudder look at words
P V Subramaniam lets loose on why the book, why dentistry, and why The Udder Side contains so many off-colour words

Why did you become a dentist?
Why didn’t you become an MBA?

In my time, circa 1984, most students got into dentistry on the rebound from not getting into the MBBS course. Ditto with me; I lost out on getting into the MBBS course by 1 mark! However, once I entered the BDS course, I was fascinated by the combination of Medical Science/Art/Engineering which Dentistry encapsulates, and have never had any regrets about not having gained admission into the MBBS course. And in my time, among Science stream students, only those who couldn’t get into Medicine/Engineering/Dentistry/Pharmacy/Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy tried for a basic graduation, and then an MBA....Unlike today,MBA was not a hot career option! The Licence Raj still ruled firmly, and the MBA dream took off only later in the ‘90s.

When did you get the idea for this book?
Nearly a decade ago, while poring through my old tattered dictionary, I had an idea that there is ample scope to write a light-hearted dictionary. I used to love reading the dictionary, as it not only helped to to increase my vocabulary, it was also hugely informative on a variety of subjects. However, dictionaries are like some of my college professors - they are full of knowledge, but put you to sleep! Their tone is authoritarian, and they are quite terse, therefore, most people consider dictionaries as boring reference books. I felt I could give the dictionary a funny make-over, so that people actually reach out for it for a laugh!

Which was the first word (for the book) that occurred to you?
The word ‘Udder’, due to which it appears in the title of the book itself. It sounds naughty, and also sounds like the word ‘other’, providing many opportunities for manipulation. It epitomises the tenor of the book..I have used puns (unkindly branded as the lowest form of wit), I have played with phrases, I have tried to exploit the phonetics of similar-sounding words, and I have also exploited hyperbole to the hilt.

Some of the definitions are risque, while others have a hint of sexism about them. Don’t you feel it may bother readers in this politically-correct age?
My intention is only to poke fun at the English language, and nothing else! Though the book is irreverent, and spares none, I do not intend disrespect to any person, sex, community, religion, institution, etc. These may have been used as props in my definitions only to extract humour from the words themselves, and as such, the book needs to be read with a light hand and mind. Humour is a very broad genre, whether simple slapstick or highbrow dry. Most adults enjoy (secretly, perhaps) risque humour, and sarcasm or satire are never politically correct. I have tried to bait both sexes in my book, to avoid the sexist tag, and you will find many entries taking pot-shots at men and women alike. We are made differently, and there is always humour to be found in the behaviour of those whom we see as ‘udders’.

If not a humour book, what would you have written about?
I love writing on a variety of subjects, so it could have been dentistry, or organic farming, or wildlife photography. I used to write travel features for magazines, and could gather them into a travelogue, perhaps...

Any other book in the pipeline?
Yes, I am working on a couple of manuscripts... and if this book is received well, I could perhaps plan a Vol 2!

Any last words for readers?
As I mentioned earlier, most dictionaries tend to put people to sleep! In a way, I would like to do the same... I would like people to curl up with my book at the end of a long day, and fall asleep with a smile on their lips...!

Priced at Rs 250, the 296-page paperback is published by Fingerprint and available at major bookstores as well as online.

The daffynitions

Abstract Form of art used by bureaucrats trying to paint a rosy picture of the economy.
Aerial Survey To go check if someone’s fiddled with your TV antenna.
Anchor A TV personality you wish you could drop into the sea.
Baby Joint venture between hardware and software.
Balance Sheet A piece of paper which is all that’s left after you pay your taxes.
Bigamy Once bitten, twice smitten.
Bill The most common cause of cardiac arrest.
Box-Office Cramped quarters allotted to you at the workplace.
Bribe Lubricant used on governmental palms.
Bridge In India, structure designed to stand upright till the contractor is paid.
Bustard A bird of dubious parentage struggling with spellings.
Civil Servant A complete misnomer, alluding to persons neither civil not serving.
Conceivable Capable of being bearable.
Down To Earth In an advanced state of inebriation.
Duet An assault on both the eardrums.
Electric Chair Where convicts come to a shocking conclusion.
Facelift A procedure which helps relieve a plastic surgeon’s depression.
Gastronomy The study of flatulence in outer space.
Hedge A fence with greener grass on both sides.
Immobile The state of having lost your cell phone.
Labourer An obstetrician on daily wage.
Life The saga of womb to tomb.
Mahout Jumbo pilot.
Nepotism The theory of relativity employed in an organisation.
Open-Heart Surgery An operation in which a surgeon explores deep within your pockets.
Performance Anxiety When all that goes up is your hope.
Recreation Often leads to procreation.
Serial Killer What you want to turn into when subject to inane television programming.
Tap Dance Entertainment provided to a plumber while he attends to a leak.
Telekinesis The art of moving your husband away from the TV.
X-Ray A device used by radiologists to check the contents of your wallet.
Zip Code Secret combination to opening a chastity belt. 

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