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Silent but deadly: Farting across cultures

Potoooooooo

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http://popanth.com/article/silent-but-deadly-farts-across-cultures/

While I was lecturing at a regional university in the USA, a colleague told me about a student (let’s call him Steve), who had asked for her anthropological opinion on a recent incident. While waiting for class to start, Steve yawned and stretched in his chair, and he accidentally let out a “loud and proud” fart[1]–the brunt of which was borne by a classmate sitting directly behind him.

The classmate was most offended by this errant fart and insisted that Steve apologise. Faced with Steve’s unwillingness to repent the fart, his irate classmate responded with threats to beat him up. Bewildered at the response his fart engendered, Steve asked my colleague: why is this natural occurrence treated with such hostility?
Now to most people (other than Steve, who was admittedly an odd sort of bloke), the student’s response to the fart, although extreme, is somewhat understandable.[2] However, Steve did raise an interesting question–just why do farts engender hostility? And laughter? And embarrassment?
The interesting thing is that anthropologists have never tried to answer this question. While we haven’t generally been afraid to get down and dirty in our subject matter, apparently we draw the line at farts. Are we prepared to just take Diane Ackerman’s word for it in her A Natural History of the Senses that “though ancient and uncontrollably natural, a fart is generally considered to be repellent, discourteous, and even the smell of the devil”?
Call it an insatiable curiosity about the human condition, call it a Freudian anal fixation, call it what you will, but I, for one, am not willing to let the matter rest there. So in the interests of sharing the fruits of my intellectual labours, I present for you some thoughts on farts.
 

doubtingt

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http://popanth.com/article/silent-but-deadly-farts-across-cultures/

While I was lecturing at a regional university in the USA, a colleague told me about a student (let’s call him Steve), who had asked for her anthropological opinion on a recent incident. While waiting for class to start, Steve yawned and stretched in his chair, and he accidentally let out a “loud and proud” fart[1]–the brunt of which was borne by a classmate sitting directly behind him.

The classmate was most offended by this errant fart and insisted that Steve apologise. Faced with Steve’s unwillingness to repent the fart, his irate classmate responded with threats to beat him up. Bewildered at the response his fart engendered, Steve asked my colleague: why is this natural occurrence treated with such hostility?
Now to most people (other than Steve, who was admittedly an odd sort of bloke), the student’s response to the fart, although extreme, is somewhat understandable.[2] However, Steve did raise an interesting question–just why do farts engender hostility? And laughter? And embarrassment?
The interesting thing is that anthropologists have never tried to answer this question. While we haven’t generally been afraid to get down and dirty in our subject matter, apparently we draw the line at farts. Are we prepared to just take Diane Ackerman’s word for it in her A Natural History of the Senses that “though ancient and uncontrollably natural, a fart is generally considered to be repellent, discourteous, and even the smell of the devil”?
Call it an insatiable curiosity about the human condition, call it a Freudian anal fixation, call it what you will, but I, for one, am not willing to let the matter rest there. So in the interests of sharing the fruits of my intellectual labours, I present for you some thoughts on farts.

So, is it a coincidence that your screen name kinda sounds like a fart? :)

Seriously, the field of psychology has some useful information. There is research on the emotion of "disgust" and its universalism and association with the sense of smell, and facial reactions of scrunching the nose so as to constrict the nasal passages and reduce the intake of potentially harmful fumes.
The going theory is that people react to other's bodily excretions not just negatively, but specifically with disgust and that disgust is a reaction to protect ourselves from harmful bacteria and contagions.

As to the humor issue, I think that is separate and probably tied more to violating norms which is often seen as funny (except to social authorities and those humorless sorts who take it as their duty to enforce the rules; Ha, I said duty).
 

Juma

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There is research on the emotion of "disgust" and its universalism and association with the sense of smell, and facial reactions of scrunching the nose so as to constrict the nasal passages and reduce the intake of potentially harmful fumes.
"Scrunching the nose" does not constrict the nasal passage. It is only a visual signal.

Stopping the flow through the nose is done by muscles in the throut.


You can, of course, combing "scrunching" with actual blocking but that is a coincidence,.
 

ryan

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This is kind of interesting. Why is a fart from the human body much less offensive than if Steve were to spit on the other student? Both are unwanted remnants coming from another body. This does not warrant a fight, but it should warrant an apology or at least an "excuse me". Even an obnoxious cough or sneeze should be followed by an "excuse me". People who are offensive to society should expect to receive an offensive response.

Now, I am not saying that it isn't hilarious to "crop dust" a buddy that you want to get back at for something, but why crop dust an innocent victim?
 

doubtingt

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There is research on the emotion of "disgust" and its universalism and association with the sense of smell, and facial reactions of scrunching the nose so as to constrict the nasal passages and reduce the intake of potentially harmful fumes.
"Scrunching the nose" does not constrict the nasal passage. It is only a visual signal.

The act of scrunching your nose while keeping your mouth closed definitely restricts airflow into the nose. It is very easy to test. Just do it while keeping your mouth closed and you lose oxygen as though you are holding your breath. You have to make a concerted effort to breath harder to get enough oxygen. Also, when you do it, it automatically causes your upper lip to bunch up under your nose which will block some of the airflow to your nasal openings.
 

Juma

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There is research on the emotion of "disgust" and its universalism and association with the sense of smell, and facial reactions of scrunching the nose so as to constrict the nasal passages and reduce the intake of potentially harmful fumes.
"Scrunching the nose" does not constrict the nasal passage. It is only a visual signal.

The act of scrunching your nose while keeping your mouth closed definitely restricts airflow into the nose. It is very easy to test. Just do it while keeping your mouth closed and you lose oxygen as though you are holding your breath. You have to make a concerted effort to breath harder to get enough oxygen. Also, when you do it, it automatically causes your upper lip to bunch up under your nose which will block some of the airflow to your nasal openings.

Yeah right... This may work for your type of nose... But it doesnt change the fact that we have much better ways of stopping the flow through the nose and that what happens when you smell something real bad.and wants to shut it off.
 
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