The title Oh! Calcutta! was inspired by a painting by the Surrealist Clovis Trouille (1889-1975) called Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta!; it depicts a reclining woman draped in rich fabrics and revealing a pair of plump buttocks decorated with tattooed fleur-de-lis. The choice came about in 1966. Ken Tynan’s wife Kathleen was writing an article on Trouille, and knew that Ken admired the derrière in question: when she suggested it as the title of his play he accepted with alacrity. What neither Katherine nor Ken knew, however — until later — was that the title Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta! was a pun. Calcutta stands in for ‘Quel cul t’as!’, or ‘What an arse you’ve got!’ Similar punning potentialities were of course exploited by Marcel Duchamp in his famous study of a moustachioed Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q. (‘Elle a chaud au cul’, or, ‘She’s got a hot arse’).
Tynan, Kathleen: The Life of Kenneth Tynan (1987)
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