Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Sort of Miniature Band

Peter F. Ostwald, The Semiotics of Human Sound (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), p. 28:
Among the internal organs of the body which make noises, the digestive tract is probably the most musical, a sort of miniature band. The mouth, a kind of trumpet, can hiss, blare and chomp. The esophagus, like a bassoon, produces gulps, burps, and belches, which, when properly timed, can produce considerable hilarity. The stomach, akin to a French horn, gurgles, growls, and groans. The intestines, resembling nothing so much as a glockenspiel, tinkle during peristalsis. The trombone-like colon zooms as it leisurely churns away at semisolid gruel. Now and then its noises, especially the sudden high-pitched beeps and bloops, embarrass the band director. Tuba-like 'brummps' indicate the deposit of feces in the rectum in anticipation of the final discharge to the accompaniment of a fanfare of noises.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Comparison

John England, Travels through Scotland (London: W. Morgan, n.d.), p. 17, quoted in Martin Rackwitz, Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800 (Münster: Waxmann Verlag, 2007), p. 125, n. 39:
A Scotchman is compared to a Fart, because, as a Fart never returns to the Place it escapes from, so a Scotchman, when he once gets out of his own Country, never desires to go back again.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Effects of Diet

Fernando del Paso, Palinuro of Mexico, tr. Elisabeth Plaister (Normal: Dalkey Archive Press, 1996), p. 477:
We learned to choose our foods to determine the calibre of our artillery. Because, just as we discovered that lentils produce fragmented farts like confetti and cauliflower produces green and lethal machine-gun fire and broad beans white mold so, also, we learned that when we ate rotten cheeses we produced fatuous and rancid farts of heraldic blue; when we drank beer, we launched foaming farts with ultra-violet tendencies and when we lunched on pheasant (the rottener the better) we produced super-active farts which, like the great de Chéseaux comet, had several multicoloured tails which followed them faithfully through Norton's Star Atlas.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Francis Kynaston (1587-1642), "To Cynthia: On a Mistress for his Rivals," lines 53-56:
Her cheeks and buttocks shall so near agree
In shape and semblance, they shall seem to be
Twins by their likeness, nor shall it be eath
To know, which is which by their fulsome breath.
eath: easy
fulsome: foul-smelling, stinking (Oxford English Dictionary, sense 4.b)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In Your Nose

[John Mennes (1599-1671),] Wit restor'd in several Select poems not formerly publish't (London: R. Pollard, N. Brooks, and T. Dring, 1658), p. 172:
If a fart flye away where he makes his stay,
Can any man think or suppose?
For a fart cannot tell, when its out where to dwell,
Unlesse it be in your nose, unlesse it be in your nose boyes,
Unlesse it be in your nose.

For a fart cannot tell, when its out where to dwell
Unlesse it be in your nose.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

An 18th Century Allusion to Lighting Farts

[Thomas Bridges,] A Burlesque Translation of Homer, 3rd ed., vol. 1 (London: S. Hooper, 1770), p. 111:
I'th' int'rim, fond of mischief telling,
The rainbow-goddess flies to Helen:
Most modern farts I ever knew,
When set on fire burn only blue,
Or simple red, but when behind
This nimble goddess lets out wind,
You see not only reds and blues,
But all the colours painters use.

Friday, August 2, 2013

No Smoking

A.N. Wilson, C.S. Lewis: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1990; rpt. 2002), pp. 5-6 (on Albert Lewis):
He was a master of the anecdote, a fund of improbable stories, many of which epitomized the tragicomedy of what it meant to be Irish. One of the more bizarre 'wheezes' (as he habitually termed these stories and observations) concerned an occasion when he was traveling in an old-fashioned train of the kind which had no corridor, so that the passengers were imprisoned in their compartments for as long as the train was moving. He was not alone in the compartment. He found himself opposite one other character, a respectable-looking farmer in a tweed suit whose agitated manner was to be explained by the demands of nature. When the train had rattled on for a further few miles, and showed no signs of stopping at a station where a lavatory might have been available, the gentleman pulled down his trousers, squatted on the floor of the railway carriage and defecated. When this operation was complete, and the gentleman, fully clothed, was once more seated opposite Albert Lewis, the smell in the compartment was so powerful as to be almost nauseating. To vary, if not to drown the odour, Albert Lewis got a pipe from his pocket and began to light it. But at that point the stranger opposite, who had not spoken one word during the entire journey, leaned forward and censoriously tapped a sign on the window which read NO SMOKING.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Vanish, Foyst!

John Marston (1576–1634), The Dutch Courtezan 3.3.50-51, in The Works of John Marston, ed. A.H. Bullen, Vol. II (London: John C. Nimmo, 1887), p. 61:
Every man's turd smells well in's own
nose. Vanish, foyst!
Foyst = foist = fist. See Oxford English Dictionary, under fist, n.2: "A breaking wind, a foul smell, stink."

"Vanish, foyst!" is a useful exclamation to utter when someone breaks wind.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Manly Thunder

Paul Poissel, The Facts of Winter, tr. Paul La Farge (San Francisco: McSweeney's Books, 2005), p. 51:
                                        MANLY THUNDER

The next night, Mme F—— dreams that she's on the 367 bus from the Louvre to Belleville. A well-dressed gentleman gets up and offers her his fortune, which adds up to two million francs, he says. He grabs Mme F—— by the waist and says he wants to kiss her. "Oh no," says Mme F—— "Not again!" At that moment the gentleman farts loudly. Sorely embarrassed by this contretemps, he gets off the bus, and disappears into a crowd of old people and soldiers.

Mme F—— wakes up sad and sleepy: another of those damn dreams. "The 367 bus doesn't even go to Belleville," she tells herself.
Note: Paul Poissel is actually an invention of Paul La Farge.

Hat tip: A friend.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

All I Want To Do

Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes, edd. Clifton Fadiman and André Bernard, rev. ed. (2000), p. 47 (on Samuel Beckett):
Beckett was listening while his friend Walter Lowenfels expounded at length his views on the relationship of art and the desolate condition of society. Beckett nodded but said nothing, until his friend burst out, "You sit there saying nothing while the world is going to pieces! What do you want! What do you want to do?" Beckett crossed his long legs and drawled, "Walter, all I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Ill Wind

John Heywood (1497-1580), "Of Blowing," in The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood, ed. John S. Farmer (London: Early English Drama Society, 1906), p. 144:
What wind can there blow that doth not some man please?
A fart in the blowing doth the blower ease.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Prudish Translation

Barbara C Bowen, Enter Rabelais, Laughing (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998), p. 91 (on the Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum, or EOV):
Unfortunately, non-Latinists are unable to appreciate the full comedy of the EOV. The only English translation was done by Francis Stokes in 1925 and will strike most readers as disconcertingly old-fashioned British English. It is also regrettably prudish, toning down the earthy language of the original until it is almost unrecognizable. For instance, would you guess that the following sentence: "Then was I sore afraid, and fell into such a pickle that I savored ill in the nostrils of those who stood by" (II.63) is a translation of "Tunc fui ita perterritus quod perminxi et permerdavi me, quod omnes nasum praetenebant" ("Then I was so terrified that I pissed and shitted all over myself, so that they all held their noses")?
Hat tip: A friend.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Medieval Latin Proverb

Thesaurus Proverbiorum Medii Aevi, ed. Samuel Singer, Vol. 4 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1997), p. 131 (my translation):
Twelve farts are equivalent to one turd.

Duodecim bombi faciunt unum strontum.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Recueil General des Rencontres, Demandes et Responses Tabariniques, Vol. I (1622), p. 32, summarized by Barbara C. Bowen in "Tabarin the (Scato-)logician," EMF: Studies in Early Modern France 14 (2010) 32-40 (at 34):
Which is more worthy of reverence, a turd or musk?

A turd, because passers-by make a respectful detour in order to avoid it.
Hat tip: A friend.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Classification of Animals

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Philosophical Writings, tr. Steven Tester (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012), p. 95 (Sudelbücher, G 161):
The man was working on a system of natural history in which he ordered animals according to the form of their excrement. For this he created three classes: cylindrical, spherical, and cake-like.

Dieser Mann arbeitete an einem System der Naturgeschichte, worin er die Tiere nach der Form der Exkremente geordnet hatte. Er hatte drei Klassen gemacht: die zylindrischen, sphärischen und kuchenförmigen.
Hat tip: A friend.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Granny Misbehaves

Paul Morand, Journal inutile, Vol. 2 (Paris: Gallimard, 2001), p. 343 (7 octobre 1974; my translation):
Curious, this belligerence of very old sick people: Raymond tells me, in this regard, that his old grandmother, in the hospital, saved up her feces, which she hid under her blankets, so she could throw them at nurses (female and male), when they entered her room.

Curieuse cette agressivité des malades très âgés: Raymond me raconte, à ce propos, que sa vieille grand-mère, à l'hôpital, faisait provision de ses excréments, qu'elle cachait sous ses draps, pour pouvoir les jeter à la figure des infirmières ou infirmiers, quand ils entraient dans sa chambre.
Hat tip: A friend.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Death and Farting

A Collection of Epigrams, 2nd ed. (London: J. Walthoe, 1735), No. CCCIII:
Death made easy.

If death must come, as oft as breath departs,
    Then he must often die, who often farts;
And if to die, be but to lose one's breath,
    Then death's a fart; and so a fart for death.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shifting Blame

A Collection of Epigrams, 2nd ed. (London: J. Walthoe, 1735), No. XCV:
Upon a Lady, who finding her Pocket wet, pretended she had broke her Hartshorn Bottle in it.

Ye sons of verse, transmit to fame,
    How blest the life of miss is;
When she breaks wind, Shock bears the blame;
    And hartshorn, when she pisses.
Hartshorn (the aqueous solution of ammonia) was used in smelling salts. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. shock, n.4: "A dog having long shaggy hair, spec. a poodle."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Schoolboy Fun

David Garnett is thanking Sylvia Townsend Warner (letter of 1st November, 1971) for the gift of a copy of her latest book of short stories, The Innocent and the Guilty (Chatto & Windus, 1971) and commenting on them:
'Bruno' is very moving but perhaps a shade too much of a moral tale. As for 'Oxenhope', I keep going back there myself — although I never lit the marsh gas. T.S. Eliot or Frank Morley told me he had been at school with a boy who could set light to his farts — I was with them both and can't remember which one told the story.
Sylvia and David: the Townsend Warner/Garnett Letters, selected and edited by Richard Garnett (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994), pp. 161-162.

Hat tip: A friend.

Friday, February 1, 2013

This Is Martha's Dining Room

David Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, Vol. 1: Italy (excluding the City of Rome), Spain and Gaul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; rpt. 2005), p. 296, no. 218 (Corpus Inscriptionum Judicarum i 566; Pompeii, 1st century):
Marthae hoc trichilinium | est. nam in trichilinio | cacat.

This is Martha's dining room. For she shits in the dining room.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Absurd and Filthye Languish

Extracts from the Records of the Merchant Adventurers of Newcastle-upon Tyne, Vol. I (Durham: Andrews & Co., 1895), p. 192 (August 23, 1658):
An information, dated June the 8th last, was by Mr. Railph Cocke presented against Mr. William Gray, junior, wherein Mr. Cocke set forth that, upon a differance betwixt them, he told Mr. Gray he would aske leave of Mr. Governor to arrest him; to which he answered he cared not a fart for the Governor. Mr. Cocke replyed if he should acquaint the Governor he would repeat his words, to which Mr. Gray answeareing sayd he cared neither a fart nor a turd for the Governor, for which absurd and filthye languish he was fyned twenty pounds.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Use of the Cow in Siegecraft

Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel II.15 (tr. J.M. Cohen):
On their return Panurge considered the walls of Paris, and said to Pantagruel in derision: 'Oh, how strong they are! They're just the thing for keeping goslings in a coop. By my beard, they are pretty poor defences for a city like this. Why a cow could knock down more than twelve foot of them with a single fart.'

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Constantine Copronymus

The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. IV: The Eastern Roman Empire (717-1453) (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1923), p. 11 (from Chapter I, by Charles Diehl):
Constantine V (740-775) has been fiercely attacked by the iconodule party. They surnamed him "the Stable-boy" (καβάλλινος) and "Copronymus" (named from dung), on account of an unlucky accident which, they said, had occurred at his christening.
On the nature of the "unlucky accident," see Theophanes, Chronicle, annus mundi 6211 = 718/719 A.D. (tr. Harry Turtledove):
In this year a still more impious son was born to the impious Emperor Leo: Constantine, the forerunner of the Antichrist. On December 25 Leo's wife Maria was crowned in the triklinos of the Augusteion. She went to the great church alone—without her husband—and without ceremony. She prayed before going in to the altar, then went into the great baptistery. Her husband and a few of her intimates preceded her in. While Germanos the chief prelate was baptizing Leo's successor (in both his evil and his rule) Constantine, the boy, because he was so young, gave a terrible, foul-smelling harbinger: he defecated in the holy font, as say those who were accurate eyewitnesses.