One of my uncles was a physician, and when he first used the word “flatus” around me and my siblings, the hilarity was endless. While not the word’s primary definition, flatus can refer to an accumulation of air or gas in the bowels or stomach, a fart by any other name. My brothers started hurling new insults as result of this addition to their vocabularies, flatus-face among them. Such creativity runs in my family… I had occasion to recall Uncle Jay-Jay’s delicate term when I came across a close verbal cousin, afflatus.
Afflatus n. from the Latin for a blowing or hissing (Latin, afflatus serpentis): 1. a breathing out, hissing. Or,
2. the miraculous communication of supernatural knowledge; hence, also, the imparting of an over-mastering impulse, poetic or otherwise; inspiration.
Both flatus and afflatus are old words, in circulation in the 1700s, but I don’t know as I’ll ever have a chance to put them to use by one of my historical characters. No matter how appropriate the terms might be in a given scene, if I use them, in the back of my mind I’m going to hear my brother Tom, his tone laden with glee while he lambastes a younger sibling for being such a flatus-brain.