Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It Was Not a Tansy

In a duel, Roderick Random disarmed his opponent:
That I might, however, mortify his vanity, which triumphed without bounds over my misfortune, I thrust his sword up to the hilt in something (it was not a tansy) that lay smoking on the plain, and joined the rest of the soldiers with an air of tranquillity and indifference.
Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, Vol. II, Chap. VIII.

A tansy is an aromatic herb. The "something...that lay smoking on the plain" was a fresh turd.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Divine Afflatus

Mary Reed Bobbitt, With Dearest Love to All: The Life and Letters of Lady Jebb (London, Faber and Faber, 1960), p.63 (Cara is Lady Jebb):
One of Cara's old Cambridge acquaintances, Mrs. Keynes, when ninety, recalled a story about Jeanette Potts, who took herself very seriously as a poetess. One day when she was taking a walk into the town (they had moved into a house on Parker's Piece) she was inspired to write a poem. Rushing into Peck's, the chemist's shop, she exclaimed, 'The divine afflatus! Give me some paper, quick!' Mr. Peck, much puzzled about her predicament, showed her into the lavatory.
Hat tip: A friend.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Are Those Pieces of Paper?

Gwen Raverat, Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1952), p. 34:
And so it was; I can remember the smell very well, for all the sewage went into the river, till the town was at last properly drained, when I was about ten years old. There is a tale of Queen Victoria being shown over Trinity by the Master, Dr. Whewell, and saying, as she looked down over the bridge: 'What are those pieces of paper floating down the river?' To which, with great presence of mind, he replied: 'Those, ma'am, are notices that bathing is forbidden.'

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flaubert's Motto

Gustave Flaubert, letter to Ernest Feydeau (August 1859, translated by Francis Steegmuller):
Shit, shit, shit: such is my motto.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Crime of Edgar Marsalla

J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, Chapter 3:
The only good part of his speech was right in the middle of it. He was telling us all about what a swell guy he was, what a hotshot and all, then all of a sudden this guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in chapel and all, but it was also quite amusing. Old Marsalla. He damn near blew the roof off. Hardly anybody laughed out loud, and old Ossenburger made out like he didn't even hear it, but old Thurmer, the headmaster, was sitting right next to him on the rostrum and all, and you could tell he heard it. Boy, was he sore. He didn't say anything then, but the next night he made us have compulsory study hall in the academic building and he came up and made a speech. He said that the boy that had created the disturbance in chapel wasn't fit to go to Pencey. We tried to get old Marsalla to rip off another one, right while old Thurmer was making his speech, but he wasn't in the right mood.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gluttony's Drinking Bout and Its Aftermath

William Langland, Piers Plowman 5.344-351, translated by Terence Tiller:
So they laughed and they lowered and yelled, 'Let's have a drink,'
And sat there till Evensong, singing now and then,
Till Gluttony had golloped a gallon or more
And his guts now started to rumble like two greedy sows.
He pissed four pints in the space of a Pater-noster,
And blew the round bugle at his backbone's end
So that all who heard that horn held their noses,
And wished he had bunged it with a bunch of whins.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What to Say When Someone Farts

"Heaven preserve me! I am suffocated! Fellow! fellow! away with thee. Curse thee, fellow! get thee gone: I shall be stunk to death!"

Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, Vol. I, Chap. XXXIV.

"What lusty trumpet thus doth summon us?"

William Shakespeare, King John 5.2.117.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Martial 12.77, translated by D.R. Shackleton Bailey:
As Aethon on the Capitol addressed Jupiter with many a prayer, standing on tiptoe and bending backwards, he farted. People laughed, but the father of the gods himself was offended and punished our client with three nights of home dining. After this scandal, when poor little Aethon wants to go to the Capitol, he first visits Paterclus' latrines and farts ten times or twenty. But though he has covered himself by thus breaking wind, he addresses Jupiter buttocks clenched.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Fartiest Seasons of All

Robin D. Gill, Octopussy, Dry Kidney & Blue Spots: Dirty Themes from 18-19C Japanese Poems (Paraverse Press, 2007), p. 370 (speaking of Issa):
[H]e also recognized that Spring and Fall were probably the fartiest seasons of all, even if one was not so aware of one another's production as when shut in for the winter, and cut dozens of farts into them. When Spring came people were eating gas inducing daikon pickles and other salted greens that outlasted the winter and were metaphysically full of pep and ready to go.
Id., p. 371, translating verses by Issa:
     just ten farts
is all i go out to dump
     this long night
Hat tip: A friend.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Compound of Villainous Smells

Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (Ware: Wordsworth, 1995), p. 59:
It was, indeed, a compound of villainous smells, in which the most violent stinks, and the most powerful perfumes, contended for the mastery. Imagine to yourself a high exalted essence of mingled odours, arising from putrid gums, imposthumated lungs, sour flatulencies, rank armpits, sweating feet, running sores and issues, plasters, ointments, and embrocations, hungary-water, spirit of lavender, assa foetida drops, musk, hartshorn, and sal volatile; besides a thousand frowzy steams, which I could not analyse.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Nature of Stink

Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (Ware: Wordsworth, 1995), pp. 12-13:
Then hemming thrice, he assumed a most ridiculous solemnity of aspect, and entered into a learned investigation of the nature of stink. He observed, that stink, or stench, meant no more than a strong impression on the olfactory nerves, and might be applied to substances of the most opposite qualities; that in the Dutch language, stinken signified the most agreeable perfume, as well as the most fetid odour, as appears in Van Vloudel's translation of Horace, in that beautiful ode, Quis multa gracilis, &c. The words liquidis perfusus odoribus, he translates van civit et moschata gestinken; that individuals differed toto coelo in their opinion of smells, which, indeed, was altogether as arbitrary as the opinion of beauty; that the French were pleased with the putrid effluvia of animal food; and so were the Hottentots in Africa, and the savages in Greenland; and that the negroes on the coast of Senegal would not touch fish till it was rotten; strong presumptions in favour of what is generally called stink, as those nations are in a state of nature, undebauched by luxury, unseduced by whim and caprice; that he had reason to believe the stercoraceous flavour, condemned by prejudice as a stink, was, in fact, most agreeable to the organs of smelling; for that every person who pretended to nauseate the smell of another's excretions, snuffed up his own with particular complacency; for the truth of which he appealed to all the ladies and gentlemen then present: he said, the inhabitants of Madrid and Edinburgh found particular satisfaction in breathing their own atmosphere, which was always impregnated with stercoraceous effluvia; that the learned Dr. B—, in his treatise on 'The Four Digestions,' explains in what manner the volatile effluvia from the intestines stimulate and promote the operations of the animal economy: he affirmed, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the Medicis family, who refined upon sensuality with the spirit of a philosopher, was so delighted with that odour, that he caused the essence of ordure to be extracted, and used it as the most delicious perfume: that he himself (the doctor), when he happened to be low-spirited, or fatigued with business, found immediate relief and uncommon satisfaction from hanging over the stale contents of a close-stool, while his servant stirred it about under his nose; nor was this effect to be wondered at, when we consider that this substance abounds with the self-same volatile salts that are so greedily smelled to by the most delicate invalids, after they have been extracted and sublimed by the chemists.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tinker and Stinker

The Life and Adventures of Job Nott, Buckle Maker, of Birmingham...As Written by Himself (Birmingham: E. Piercy, 1793), pp. 19-20:
The next place I stopt at was on the road were I meant to make my quarters for that night. A travelling Tinker and his Wench was all our company. She was a great He-looking draggle tailed creature, full 6 foot high, with eyes as big as oysters, and a mouth as Wide as three of mine. He called her Spanker. We ordered a dish of beef stakes for supper, and a famous dish it proved, but before I'd eat two mouthfuls on't, Spanker belch'd and broke Wind confoundedly, so that, hungry as I was, it quite turn'd my stomach, for that's a thing reckoned beastly even among the poorest of folks. However the dish was soon cleared. I've had a brave supper, said Spanker. So have I says the Tinker. And so haven't I, said I, for you turn'd me sick, Madam. Well, said she, What said the Dutchess, when she got a Liftenant made Captain for fathering a f—t as she let before the Queen, Its an ill Wind that blows Nobody good. There was the more for me and the Tinker.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rectal Music

From The benefit of farting explain'd: or, the fundament-all cause of the distempers incident to the fair-sex, enquired into. Proving à posteriori most of the dis-ordures in-tail'd upon them, are owning to flatulencies not seasonably vented. Written in Spanish by Don Fartinando Puff-indorst, professor of bombast in the University of Crackow. And translated into English at the request, and for the use, of the Lady Damp-fart of Her-fart-shire. By Obadiah Fizzle, Groom of the Stool to the Princess of Arsimini in Sardinia. Long-Fart: (Longford in Ireland), printed by Simon Bumbubbard, at the sign of the Wind-Mill opposite Twattling-Street, 1722:
Dr. Blow in his Treatise of the Fundiment-alls of Musick asserts, that the first Discovery of Harmony was owing to an Observation of Persons of different Sizes, sounding different Notes, in Musick, by Farting, for while one Farted in B fa bimi, another was observ'd to answer in F f aut, and make that agreeable Concord call'd a Fifth, whence that Musical Part had its Name of Bum-Fiddle, and the first Invention of the Double Curtel was owing to this Observation; by this Rule it wou'd be an easy Matter to Form a Farting Consort, by ranging Persons of different Sizes in Order, as you wou'd a Ring of Bells, or a Set of Organ Pipes, which Entertainment wou'd prove much more Diverting round a Tea Table, than the usual one, Scandal; since the sweetest Harmony is allow'd by most, to proceed from GUTS.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Where Do You Buy That Incense?

Diodorus of Sinope, The Heiress, quoted by Athenaeus 6.239 e-f (translated by C.B. Gulick):
And so, in later times, certain rich men, imitating the example of Heracles, picked out parasites to support, and invited them in, selecting not the finest men, but those best able to play the flatterer and praise them in everything. Why! When a patron, after eating radishes or a stale sheat-fish, belches in their faces, the flatterers say that he must have lunched on violets and roses. And when the patron breaks wind as he lies next to one of these fellows, the latter applies his nose and begs him to tell him, "Where do you buy that incense?"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Air Freshener

Ben Jonson, The Staple of Newes, Act III, Scene II, lines 98-102, from his Works, Vol. VI, edd. C.H. Herford et al. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1938), p. 331:
CLA. They write from Libtzig (reuerence to your eares)
The Art of drawing farts out of dead bodies,
Is by the Brotherhood of the Rosie Crosse,
Produc'd vnto perfection, in so sweet
And rich a tincture—— FIT. As there is no Princesse,
But may perfume her chamber with th'extraction.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Museum Flatulence

Alec Guinness, A Commonplace Book (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2001), p.6:
A fleshy old man, moving from room to room, apparently pausing to admire pictures and objects, but in fact quietly easing out a little gas at each stop so as not to startle the hushed tapestried world around him with a resounding fart.
Hat tip: A friend, whose name I omit, lest his reputation suffer by connection with this blog.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh, He Never Returned, No, He Never Returned

Carsten Niebuhr, Travels through Arabia and Other Countries in the East, tr. Robert Heron, Vol. II (Edinburgh: R. Morrison and Son [et al.], 1792), p. 252:
The Arabians are greatly shocked when that accident happens to a man, which is the natural consequence of the fulness of the intestines after too copious a meal, and of the indigestion of windy articles of diet. The Chevalier D'Arvieux has been blamed as guilty of exaggeration in what he says concerning the delicacy of the Arabs upon this score; but I have found all that he says of the manners and usages of this nation to be strictly true. I am therefore inclined to believe equally what he relates concerning things which I could not observe or verify myself. It would seem that the Arabs are not all equally shocked at such an involuntary accident. Yet, a Bedouin, guilty of such a piece of indecency, would be despised by his countrymen. The instance of an Arab of the tribe of Belludsje was mentioned to me, who, for a reason of this sort, was obliged to leave his country, and never durst return.
Niebuhr refers to Laurent d'Arvieux, Voyage fait par ordre du roy Louis XIV, dans la Palestine... (Paris: André Cailleau, 1717), p. 172 (my translation):
What is more shameful among them is to break wind, which is a sort of crime if done on purpose. When a fart unfortunately does escape them in public, they are regarded as disgraced individuals, with whom no one wants any more to do, and it has often happened that those who have had this misfortune have been obliged to go into exile and live among other peoples, lest they be exposed to jeers and to all the consequences of a bad reputation.

Ce qu'il y a de plus malhonnête parmi eux, c'est de lâcher des vents, c'est une espece de crime que d'en faire volontairement. Lors qu'il leur en échappe par malheur dans quelque compagnie, ils sont regardés comme des gens infames, avec qui l'on ne veut plus avoir de commerce, & il est souvent arrivé que ceux qui avoient eu ce malheur, ont été obligés de s'absenter et de passer chés d'autres peuples, pour n'êtres pas exposés aux huées, & à toutes les suites d'une méchante reputation.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Unruly Wind Within her Womb

Ian C. Storey, ed., Fragments of Old Comedy, Vol. I: Alcaeus to Diocles (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 173 (translating Athenaeus 454a, with translator's footnote):
Callias was the first to reveal a word through iambic lines, a rather vulgar word, but phrased in the following manner:

Dear ladies, I am pregnant, but for modesty's sake I will spell out the name of my child for you in letters. A great upright stroke, and from its middle stands a little slanting stroke on its side. Then a circle with two little feet.3

3 The letters described are psi and omega ("ō"), yielding pso, perhaps related to psoa (foul smell). The speaker is not pregnant, then, but suffering from gas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hold Your Nose

Mary Jones (1707-1778), "Epistle, from Fern-Hill," in her Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (Oxford: Dodsley, 1750), pp. 133-138 (lines 47-56 on p. 136):
As when (to speak in phrase more humble)
The Gen'ral's guts begin to grumble,
Whate'er the cause that inward stirs,
Or pork, or pease, or wind, or worse;
He wisely thinks the more 'tis pent,
The more 'twill struggle for a vent:
So only begs you'll hold your nose,
And gently lifting up his clothes,
Away th' imprison'd vapour flies,
And mounts a zephyr to the skies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oh, What a Relief It Is!

Edward Guilpin, Skialetheia. Or, A shadow of Truth, in certaine Epigrams and Satyres (London: Printed by I.R. for Nicholas Ling, 1598), Epigram number 7, lines 4-6:
As when the cholicke in the gutts doth straine,
  With ciuill conflicts in the same embrac't,
  But let a fart, and then the worst is past.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Though I Speak with the Tongue of Angels

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, chapter 5:
The stout student who stood below them on the steps farted briefly. Dixon turned towards him, saying in a soft voice:

—Did an angel speak?

You Know All the Tricks

Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995), pp.194-196:
Past the crouching men, the three found a suitable spot. "The steel rail is very useful," said their neighbour. "Works just like a platform. Puts you higher than the ground, and the shit doesn't tickle your behind when it piles up."

"You know all the tricks, for sure," said Om, as they undid their pants and assumed their positions on the rail.

"Takes very little time to learn." He indicated the men in the scrub. "Now squatting here can be dangerous. Poisonous centipedes crawl about in there. I wouldn't expose my tender parts to them. Also, if you lose your balance in those bushes, you end up with an arseful of thorns."


"Tell me, O great Goo Guruji, do you recommend that we buy a railway timetable, if we are to squat on the tracks every morning?"

"No need for that, my obedient disciple. In a few days your gut will learn the train timings better than the stationmaster."


Along the line, men and women abandoned the tracks and waited by the ditch for the locomotive interruption to pass; the ones in the bushes stayed put. Rajaram pointed at a train compartment as it glided slowly in front of them.

"Look at those bastards," he shouted. "Staring at people shitting, as if they themselves are without bowels. As if a turd emerging from an arse-hole is a circus performance." He flung obscene gestures at the passengers, making some of them turn away.


" I wish I could bend over, point, and shoot it like a rocket in their faces," said Rajaram. "Make them eat it, since they are so interested in it." He shook his head as they walked back to their shacks. "That kind of shameless behaviour makes me very angry."

"My grandfather's friend, Dayaram," said Om, "he was force to eat a landlord's shit once, because he was late ploughing his field."

Rajaram emptied the last drops of water from his can into his palm and slicked back his hair. "Did that Dayaram develop any magic power afterwards?"

"No, why?"

"I've heard of a caste of sorcerers. They eat human shit, it gives them their black powers."

"Really?" said Om. "Then we could start a business—collect all these lumps from the track, package them and sell to that caste. Ready-made lunches, teatime snacks, hot and steaming."
Hat tip: A friend.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The New Doctrine of Odorific Effluvia

Miscellaneous Works of Dr. William Wagstaffe, 2nd ed. (London: Jonah Bowyer, 1726), pp. 89-92:
I cannot but take Notice of one Circumstance before I conclude, which may serve to shew to what an Height of Folly, Ambition or Success may raise a Man. Bob, it seems, was mightily addicted to breaking Wind backwards, and nothing could offend him more, than to see the Uneasiness it gave his Adversaries. Accordingly he took Occasion, the next time the Convention met, to acquaint them, That notwithstanding he often broke Wind, yet he never perceived any Smell attended it. This immediately was admitted into their Belief, and propagated throughout the whole Kingdom, with all the Industry imaginable. It was the Discourse of the Ladies over their Tea, and debated everywhere; all the Party attesting the Truth of it, with their usual Modesty. A Chymist, who wrote in his Defence, affirmed publickly, That breaking Wind, being nothing else but a Volatile Spirit, extracted from the Vital Sulphur of the Zibethum Occidentale, wherein consisted the Essence of Life, and the Virtual Powers of all Being, a Mystery not to be comprehended by Lower Intelligences, it was impossible the Olfactories should be attacked by any foetid or putrid Effluvia.

The Majority of the Nation, who for a long Time together had tamely submitted to the Usurpations of Bob Hush, were now no longer to be deluded by the Cant of Chymistry and Enthusiasm, but resolved to assert the Prerogative of their Senses; and several who had been led Blindfold by him, had their Eyes opened. The new Doctrine of Odorific Effluvia was every where exploded and condemned, to the great Mortification of declining Bob, who either because he could not gain his Point, or because the Testimonies about that Time exhibited against him, might endanger either his Life or his Estate, or for some other Reasons best known to himself, left the Kingdom of Fairy-Land. Thus sneaked off that Champion of his Cause, who for so many Years together, had been the Discourse of the whole World, into a sort of voluntary Banishment, to the Ruin of his Party, and the Joy of all good Men, declaring publickly, He left left his Country, because he was not treated according to his Merit; when in reality it was because he could not prevail upon them to believe, he smelt sweet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

An Epitaph

Archie Armstrong's Banquet of Jests (1641; rpt. Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1872), p. 6:
An Epitaph.

One Mr. Dombelow died of the winde Collicke, on whom was writ this Epitaph.

Dead is Dicke Dum below.
Would you the reason know:
Could his taile have but spoken,
His stout-heart had not broken.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grounds for Appeal?

Peter V. MacDonald, Return of the Court Jesters: Back to the Bar for More of the Funniest Stories from Canada's Courts (Toronto: Stoddard, 1990), p. 6:
[H]e was launching an appeal because of Assistant District Attorney Ned Lowenbach's excessive flatulence. "It was disgusting," Head declared after the four-week jury trial. "He [the prosecutor] farted about a hundred times. He even lifted his leg several times."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Odd Blessing

John Jortin, Discourses Concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion, Vol. III (London: John White, 1805), p. 209:
At another time, the emperor Michael sent to his mother Theodora to come and receive the benediction of the patriarch. She, imagining that it was Ignatius, came and prostrated herself with great respect before him, to receive the blessing. But it was Gryllus, who took care to conceal his face. He then brake wind backwards, and in a profane manner said, Such as I have, give I unto thee. The empress, thus insulted, cursed the false patriarch, and her son, and told the latter that God, whom he despised, would certainly forsake him.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Absolutely and Unconditionally Funny

K.J. Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 41:
We might have imagined that the Greeks, living as they did in conditions which we should regard as intolerably insanitary, would not have welcomed such frequent reminders in comedy of dirt and discomfort. But the humour of excretion seems to belong to all cultures; indeed, the noisy expulsion of gas from the bowels has as good a claim as anything in our experience to be absolutely and unconditionally funny. That is presumably due to the fact that the small child, having begun with a natural sensual enjoyment of defecation, is then restrained from making a mess or a bad smell where adults do not want it, and is thus provided with a channel through which he can later retaliate on society, even if only vicariously, by identifying himself with characters shouting vulgar words in comedy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Soiled Doublets

Lewis Carroll:
I enclose some Doublets, with which you may like to occupy your free minutes (if you have any). To solve a Doublet, you must change one letter only, in the first word, making a real word; then change one letter only in the new word, and so on till you get to the second word. The intermediate words are called "Links," and the whole thing a "Chain."
An example, from rice to poop, from BigHominid's Hairy Chasms:
A further example by my son (Turdman Junior, a chip off the old block), transforming bean to fart:

Free Alois Mabhunu

David Smith, "Zimbabwe detective gets 10 days in jail for using Mugabe's private toilet," The Guardian (June 2, 2011):
A Zimbabwean police officer arrested for using president Robert Mugabe's private toilet has been jailed for 10 days, it was reported on Thursday.

A court found that detective sergeant Alois Mabhunu yielded to the call of nature and forced his way past guards to a loo reserved for 87-year-old Mugabe at a recent trade show.

Mabhunu was arrested the following day and detained at police barracks for three weeks. On Tuesday he was convicted by an internal police court and sentenced to 10 days in prison, Zimbabwe's VOP radio reported.

But Mabhunu has appealed to the national police commissioner, Augustine Chihuri, to overturn the verdict, the station added.

"He has been convicted and sentenced to 10 days in prison by the police court but has since made an appeal to the police commissioner soon after conviction," said a source quoted by VOP.

Mabhunu, a murder detective, has also been demoted and transferred to a different police station, though he will remain in the city of Bulawayo. He is no longer allowed to wear plain clothes and expected to report for duty in full uniform.

The incident happened at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) early last month. According to VOP, Bulawayo police would only say that Mabhunu's case was "an internal matter".
At least he wasn't shot for choosing the wrong place to evacuate. See Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1903), p. 255:
Major Clairborne will in future mount a Brigade Guard to afford three Sentinals with orders to Fire on any man who shall be found easing himself elsewhere than in ye Vaults.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Agreeable Associations

Henry David Thoreau, Journals (November 3, 1857):
I notice some old cow-droppings in a pasture, which are decidedly pink. Even these trivial objects awaken agreeable associations in my mind...

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Odour of Farts

Graham Greene, A Sort of Life (London: The Bodley Head, 1971), p. 78:
I cannot remember what particular item in the routine of a boarding-school roused this first act of rebellion—loneliness, the struggle of conflicting loyalties, the sense of continuous grime, of unlocked lavatory doors, the odour of farts (it was sexually a very pure house, there was no hint of homosexuality, but scatology was another matter, and I have disliked the lavatory joke from that age on).

Friday, March 25, 2011

Something That Never Was Before

Bendt Alster, Sumerian Proverbs in the Schøyen Collection = Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology, 2 (Bethesda: CDL Press, 2007), p. 8:
Something that never was before: A young girl (who) does not fart in the lap of her husband.
Thanks to a friend for drawing this to my attention.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Commode

Robert Halsband, "New Anecdotes of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu," in René Wellek and Alvaro Ribeiro, edd., Evidence in Literary scholarship: Essays in Memory of James Marshall Owen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp. 241-246 (at 245):
She shew'd him her Commode, with false backs of books, the works of Pope, Swift, and Bolinbroke: she said she knew them well. They were the greatest Rascals, but she had the satisfaction of shitting on them every day.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Do Not Poison Thyself

From Don Juan Lamberto; or, a Comical History of the Late Times. By Montelion, Knight of the Oracle, in Walter Scott, ed., A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts, Vol. VII (London: T. Cadell et al., 1812), p. 140:
Neptune seeing his wife so much concern'd, thought it no time to dally; therefore out of the charriot he comes; which, when the gyant Husonio beheld, and saw also by the looks of him that he was plaguy mad, he resolved to take what advantage he could, and therefore squeezing his hypochondrions, he let such a fart as blew out all the torches; then taking his cloak-bag in his right hand, and his club in his left, he put himself into a posture of defence. The fart as it was great, so it was strong, and the scent thereof so much offended the nose of Thetis, that she was not able to endure it; 'O come away Neptune,' quoth she. 'and do not poyson thyself and me too: let my bason and ewer go to the devil, so as I may but get out of this stink I care not.'

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Island of Ruach

François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel IV.43 (tr. J.M. Cohen):
They do not shit, piss, or spit on this island. But, on the other hand, they poop, fart, and belch most copiously. They suffer from all sorts and varieties of diseases. For every malady originates and develops from flatulence, as Hippocrates proves in his book, On Wind. But the worst epidemic they know is the windy colic, as a remedy for which they use large cupping-glasses, and so draw off much wind. They all die of dropsy or tympanites; they all fart as they die, the men loudly, the women soundlessly, and in this way their souls depart by the back passage.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Jeffrey Steingarten, The Man Who Ate Everything (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), p. 231:
Why did they formulate Olestra this way? Because the early, more liquid versions caused gastrointestinal problems. One of these—"anal seepage," or, in my preference, "passive oil loss"—occurs when fully liquid Olestra separates from the food with which it was cooked and slips along the inner walls of people's intestines, bypassing everything else in its way. Drops of Olestra show up on their underwear or floating in their toilets. (The FDA actually abbreviates this as OIT, "oil in toilet.")

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Well Done, Margaret

Dougal Graham, Collected Writings, Vol. II (Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison, 1883), p. 117:
Leper and his master went to a gentleman's house to work, where there was a saucy house-keeper, who had more ignorance and pride, than good sense and manners; she domineered over her fellow-servants in a tyrannical manner; Leper resolved to mortify her pride; so he finds an ant's nest, and takes their white eggs, grinds them to a powder, and puts them into the dish her supper-sowens was to be put in. After she had taken her supper, as she was covering the table, the imock-powder began to operate, and she let a great fart, well done Margaret, says the laird, she runs away for shame, but before she turned herself round, she gives another raird. My faith, says the Laird, Margaret, your arse would take a cautioner; before she got out of the chamber-door, she lets fly another crack; then she goes to order her fellow-servant to give the laird his supper, but before she could give the necessary directions, she gave fire again, which set them all a laughing; she runs into a room by herself, and there she played away her one gun battery so fast, as she had been sieging the Havannah. The laird and lady came to hear the fun, they were like to split their sides at proud Maggy, so next morning she left the place, to the great joy of her fellow servants.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On a Fart

Matthew Prior, On a Fart, Let in the House of Commons:
Reader I was born, and cry'd;
I crack'd, I smelt, and so I dy'd.
Like Julius Caesar's was My death,
Who in the senate lost his breath.
Much alike entomb'd does lie
The noble Romulus and I;
And when I dy'd, like Flora fair,
I left the Common-Wealth my heir.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not I

The Sack Full of Newes. An Old Jest-Book, ed. J.O. Halliwell (London: For the Editor, 1861), pp. 38-39:
There was a Lady dwelt in the Countrey which had a foole that did use to go with her to church: and on a time as his lady sat in the church she let a great fart escape so that all the people heard it, and they looked on the foole that stood by her, thinking that it was he: Which when the fool perceived, he said truely it was not I that let the fart, it was my Lady. Whereat she was ashamed, and went out of the church, and chid the foole because he said it was not himselfe. Then the foole ran into the church againe and said aloud, masters, the fart which my Lady let I will take it upon me for she commanded me to say so. Whereat all the people laughed more then they did before, and the Lady was much more ashamed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Lord Chesterfield, letter to his son (November 12, O.S. 1750):
I must add another caution, which is, that upon no account whatever you put your fingers, as too many people are apt to do, in your nose or ears. It is the most shocking, nasty, vulgar rudeness that can be offered to company; it disgusts one, it turns one's stomach; and, for my own part, I would much rather know that a man's finger were actually in his breech, than see them in his nose. Wash your ears well every morning, and blow your nose in your handkerchief whenever you have occasion: but, by the way, without looking at it afterwards.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Kind of Rapture

Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 33:
The thing about the new toilet is that it removes the evidence in such a hurry. The flush toilet, more than any single invention, has "civilized" us in a way that religion and law could never accomplish. No more the morning office of the chamber pot or outhouse, where sights and sounds and odors reminded us of the corruptibility of flesh. Since Crapper's marvelous invention, we need only pull the lever behind us and the evidence disappears, a kind of rapture that removes the nuisance.