The entire spectrum of human society must have been struck with awe when in 1781 Benjamin Franklin penned an essay known as “Fart Proudly,” about flatulence, breaking wind, or what is sometimes referred to as an ill wind. As we know, the word fart, a natural and normal biological function has always been taboo among those who consider themselves well mannered. In fact, it is considered utterly vulgar.
Franklin’s reason for doing this was a call to the Royal Academy of Brussels, to encourage scientists to figure out a way, through medicine, to make farts smell good.
“Any modest pen would be reticent to sully the page with such a seemingly unseemly obscenity, and yet, no other appellation quite fits. If nothing else, the word is expressive in its forthright simplicity. Besides, why resort to euphemism to describe an innocuous natural phenomenon? Let’s not bowdlerize our bowels. Enough of this circumlocutory Victorian prudery, out with it: call a spade a spade, & a fart a fart!” – Davy King
But fart is not always the verb. In Jamaica, for example, someone who is disappointing is sometimes referred to as an old fart, (and we are by no means unique in this), or would be cursed, “yuh fava fart.” I never quite figured out whether it meant ugly or invisible. As it were, a dog sitting nearby was always welcomed in company, since they were the ones who got blamed for the discharge of flatulence. To be sure, the fart doesn’t exist until it makes a public appearance.
Interestingly, in some cultures, breaking wind was an act of purification or a means of discharging evil spirits from the body. It was only when it came with a stench that it was considered an insult. It is alleged that Adolf Hitler suffered from severe flatulence due to his fondness of beans, one of the foods which contain hydrogen sulfide. Some others are – onions, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and dairy which disproportionately contribute to farts smelling bad.
Though farts are generally categorized or commonly placed under one broad umbrella, they are far too unique to be broken down into only 5 or 6 different species, as Thurlow tried to advance through his 1825 writing, “The State of the Fart.” A whole new vocabulary is needed to do justice to the full range of manifestations subsumed under the generic term ‘fart.’ For instance, the measurement of a fart’s force would require some equivalent of the Beaufort scale (e.g. a gale-force fart) or the Richter scale (an earth-shattering fart). Moreover, frequency, blast, & duration are not the only relevant criteria. Just as wine has a distinctive bouquet, so does a fart, he continued.
Scientific research points to the fact that gas in the large intestines is produced by somewhere around 49 different strains of anaerobic microbes which cause flatulence, suppression of which could be harmful to health as they convert into toxins.
So, since farting is no respecter of rank or genteel pretense, and a fart can seem like an embarrassing comeuppance, one must always be prepared to quickly excuse oneself and move to a great distance where this wind can be broken or expelled without restraint.
To quote Day King, “Farting is the nemesis that deflates our vain pretensions & proves our human fallibility. In the inarticulate speech of the fart we can hear our lower nature striving to express itself. Rude it may be, but at least it’s honest.”
“My personal thought is that the fart will never be respected until it can be commodified and made into private property. I think Franklin was on to something.” Prof Kirk Atkinson
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