May 20, 2014

A Fart is a Many-Splendored Thing

Hey, did you know that two Indian tribes in Brazil (the Suya and Bororo) hate farts so much, if they smell a fart, the people spit? And if someone farts in public, “the whole group must go through an elaborate ritual of hacking, spitting and coughing to expel the polluting odor from their bodies.”

That quote is from Kirsten Bell. She wrote a blog post over here about farts in different cultures. And she asks the important questions, like why do farts make some people angry, while others just laugh?

For the record, I also wonder this. (Let’s just say my wife doesn’t find gas funny.)

In North America, not all farts are created equal. Little kids, old people, and sick people get a free pass. But women are under a lot of pressure not to pass gas because it’s not ladylike.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Were it not for the odiously offensive smell accompanying such escapes, polite people would probably be under no more restraint in discharging such wind in company than they are in spitting or blowing their noses.”

And according to the book Aroma: the Cultural History of Smell, in Morocco, “it is traditionally held that breaking wind inside a mosque will blind, or even kill, the angels therein.” This book also repeats what I wrote about in The Big Book of Gross Stuff—that some Morroccans have reportedly killed themselves after farting accidentally in public.

Finally, here are two “inspirational” quotes about the gas in our bodies:
“Though ancient and uncontrollably natural, a fart is generally considered to be repellent, discourteous, and even the smell of the devil.” —Diane Ackerman
“[I hope to be] so well known, so popular, so celebrated, so famous, that it would… permit me to break wind in society and society would think it a most natural thing.” —HonorĂ© de Balzac

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