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Friday, December 02, 2005

P.U.: Perfectly Unacceptable

Why do we say “P.U.” when we smell something unpleasant? It turns out that there are multiple opinions on the term’s origin, and disagreement on how it’s spelled: PU, P.U., Phyu, or Pew (as in Pepé le).

There are some whacky guesses, such as an early marketing campaign for deodorant that fights Personal Underarm odor.

But this much is certain: the Indo-European root “pu-” means “rot” and “decay”, words obviously associated with objectionable odors. Think putrid, pungent, or even puke.

Another possibility is that P.U. is short for putro, puter, puteo, Latin words for putrid, foul, stink, be redolent, or smell bad.

Any way you slice it, this is an interesting factoid to bring up at your next boring holiday party. And make sure you tell folks you read it on the Trafon blog first!


  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    Never have I once thought about why we say P.U. when something smells unpleasant. However, it did give me quite a laugh reading this! Love the site and interesting factoids- keep it up!

  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    I always say P.U. when I smell something unpleasant, but never thought about why I say it. In fact, I had no idea what it meant or stood for. I'll definitly bring this up at my next boring holiday party.

  • ~ Anonymous Anonymous said …

    We actually say PU all of the time when we change my son's diapers or take his socks off (and boy do they smell!) But I've never thought of what we're teaching him, outside of something that's questionably funny. However, I don't think my co-workers will get much of a kick out of the origin of the word PU at our office party. takes more than potty humor (sometimes) to entertain them.


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