Tagged: History

Top Trumps

The etiquette of breaking wind is a disputed topic. It’s never pleasant when someone in close proximity decides to let off, but it’s understandable that sometimes it just happens when it happens. However, there are certain rules that, if broken, kind of disgust me. (I would just like to note that the mere mention of the words ‘let off’ has sent my boyfriend into ecstatic fits of giggles – well, guess what, there’s plenty more metaphors to come)

For me, the no go scenarios where holding it in is essential are: if we’re eating dinner, in the car, in an intimate situation, or if you can make an educated guess that it’s going to smell really bad.

It sort of baffles me that my boyfriend seems to find flatulence the absolute pinnacle of hilarity. I am not totally immune to toilet humour but I draw the line at categorising the sounds, smells or ‘flavours’ (as he puts it) of passing gas. I was once lured into an embrace just for him to let rip most horrifically.  Terrified, I tried to escape his clutches in case of intoxication but I was assured, ‘Don’t worry, it’s Ready Salted’. That’s romance for you.

I suppose the reason he and his mates find these bodily functions so amusing is the gross factor. They are just boys that like boy stuff like worms and mud and squishing ants and picking their nose and kicking each other. Except, they’re in their mid 20s.

I eavesdropped on a conversation on the subject of breaking wind (I swear they literally talked about it for 10 minutes), he was  recalling a specific fart related incident from the day before that was apparently so notable that it was a strong competitor for their personalised version of ‘Top Trumps’. Yes, I liked the pun so much I titled this post thus, but seriously, is that appropriate conversation for full grown adults?

I wonder if it’s a British thing to find passing wind embarrassing yet funny.

I did a bit of a google for different cultural attitudes on the subject. Apparently, fart humour in Britain has been documented as far back as the late 1300s. There seems to be a connection with things being funny and things being taboo or naughty. So, like, sex being a great British taboo gave way to ridiculous comedies like the Carry On films…

I read that in the Punjab, farting is dismissed as though it were the same as a sneeze or hiccup. But it looks like most cultures have a similar view point to us Brits.

Koreans must have a sense of humour about it since this years must-have toy over there was a farting baby doll named Kong Suni. She’s cute.

In Japan there are public toilets that have a button to press which plays a sound to cover up any embarrassing bodily noises, including the sound of peeing. I do admire this nation of innovators. In fact, after a little research I’ve realised that a whole blog could be dedicated to Japanese public loos.

There is a popular Japanese fable, roughly translated into English as “The Farting Wife” that tells the tale of a man who marries the ideal woman, but it turns out her farts so powerful they can blow people away and even knock fruit out of trees. That’s pretty out there and pretty explicit. That’s like superhero abilities. Stan Lee should have capitalised on this.

I found an article from a US website saying that some Marines in Afghanistan were banned from audible farting because it offended the Afghans. I think that’s a little unfair. Surely it’s the smell not the sound which determines the offensiveness?

I think I’ve exhausted this topic to my personal limit.

But here’s some trivia for you on the origins of the Whoopee Cushion:

The Roman Emperor Elagabulus was known to employ a prototype of whoopee cushions at dinner parties, although the modern version was re-invented in the 1920s by the JEM Rubber Co. in Canada by employees who were experimenting with scrap sheets of rubber.


My ‘bird’…

I asked my boyfriend to stop calling me his ‘bird’ when referring to me in conversation (mainly it makes me cringe because it makes him sound uneducated and maybe I’m a bit of a snob). He said he would stop, except a while later I heard him say it to his work colleague when he thought I was out of ear shot. We laughed when I caught him out, as it doesn’t really bother me, but should I really mind? I don’t really feel comfortable being likened to an animal, as if I’m his pet or something. One dictionary definition describes it as an offensive term for a young woman, but it didn’t give any further details.

It’s more the lack of individual identity that the word suggests that I find annoying. To call a woman in general a ‘bird’ is maybe not so offensive but since he does know my name it might be more polite to use it.

I tried to find out where this terminology for woman originates from. In the Second World War women who worked in the factories were nicknamed ‘canaries’ because of the yellow effect of the sulphur to their skin. But that’s not very affectionate, or relevant. Another interesting but largely irrelevant term I discovered was ‘grue’ which is an old slang term for prostitute in French, meaning ‘crane’ in English, and refers to the way the women would stand on one leg on street corners… (Not very affectionate either, and why did they only stand on one leg??)

So, looking in to the Old English language, it appears the modern word ‘bride’ comes from the old word ‘bryd’, which sounds a little more like ‘bird’. But I doubt there is any connection. 

Another possibility is the Old English noun ‘byrd’, meaning “birth, lineage” and its adjective byrde, “well-born,” suggesting a well-born lady. I’d like this to be connected to the modern usage as it is the most flattering but I highly doubt this link.

Apparently the slang term ‘bird’ meaning young woman has been used since 1915. Guess I’ll just have to let it go. As long as I’m something grand like an ostrich and definitely not a pigeon.

My theory is that when blokes were going out to have a bit of a perv on the women passing by they used code and said they were going bird watching(?) and then it just stuck.

Anyway, I decided to take the power back by making it my blog name and I’ve threatened to publicly embarrass him by using the word ‘dude’ if I hear him say it again.