It is a curious facet of language that onomatopoeic words - such as 'bang', 'ouch', 'thwack' and so forth - are, despite the sounds themselves being universally consistent, spelled and interpreted differently in different languages and cultures. Thus, whilst in English laughter is written 'hahaha', in Malaysia it is written 'ha'-ha'-ha'', and in Spain as 'eh eh eh'.

'Paf!' is another one, familiar to generations of British schoolkids through Goscinny and Uderzo's Asterix comics, which were originally written in French. English translations alter the dialogue contained in the speech bubbles, but do not redraw the 'action words' which accompany Asterix' terroristic assaults on the forces of law and order. Thus, his punches are accompanied by the word 'PAF!', which means nothing at all in the English-speaking world but somehow seems right.

Comics artists in the UK and elsewhere spend a lot of time coming up with words to describe gunfire ('bracka-bracka', 'drrrt', 'tak-tak-tak') and blows ('whaam!', 'sock!', 'Hwoksh*!' and so forth), but 'Paf!' is one of the best. It not only implies force and vigour, but a certain dismissiveness - "I paf you, imperialist Roman dogs!" - a certain arrogance, as befits a warrior backed up with the mountainous Obelix.

'Paf par toutais' ('Paf them all') was also the title of an Asterix game for the Game Boy Advance released in 2002.

* 'The sound of a head being kicked':