Learn English – What does “P.U.” (in reference to stinkiness) stand for


"What does {holding nose} P.U. mean?" my son asked me tonight. I told him I didn't know, and he laughed and said "It means stinky, Mommy!" Very funny and well said, but it left me wondering.

A search of Wikipedia and Etymology Online came up wanting and my etymological dictionaries are packed in boxes. What does this abbreviation stand for and why does it mean stinky?

Best Answer

One person's attempt to find an answer seen on wordwizard.com came up with two different postulations which are interestingly possible.

1) It's a shortened term for puteo, which is Latin for "to stink, be redolent, or smell bad." I actually called a professor of Latin at the University of Florida to verify this one.

2) It's actually spelled "piu," but is often pronounced as "pee-yew". It's root is the Indo-European word "pu," meaning to rot or decay. A lot of other languages use this root word and have the same general meaning.