Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:41 am Thu, Mar 29, 2012
ADVERTISE AT BOING BOING!
Please tell me other people have these thoughts. If not…I think I’m much more alone on this planet than I thought.
Well, now I do!
Used to have a printout of this hanging outside my cubicle.
The first person to use the word “rank” in its proper context was a genius.
[From etymology dictionary: "Sense evolved in M.E. to "large and coarse" (c.1300), then, via notion of "excessive and unpleasant," to "having a strong bad smell" (1520s)."]
I do not think that the average person (or even scientist) truly understands the importance that farting, and our humorous reaction to it, has had in our cultures and societies over the millenia. I firmly believe that farting, and the humor we find inherent in farting, is the one bond that joins us as human beings… the one true hallmark of our common humanity.
The release of gas, when noticeable through a rank odor and/or accompanying sound, is a signal for a jocular reaction the world over. This common reaction spans all classes, creeds, ethnicities, and (to a lesser degree) both sexes. The Bushman in the Kalahari laughs, as does John Jacob Astor in his Wall Street office. The pope on his throne is as moved to mirth as the lowliest bootblack on hearing a noisy ass blast. The child of four will instinctively see the humor in a particularly loud butt bark; there is no need for “tutelage” here. Even some women are said to find farting to be slightly amusing.
And that is how it has been, for as long as we have worn the tag “human”. The one thing that TRULY separates man from animal is our ability to find humor in farts. All of the signifiers of what separates man from animal that have been offered through the years- tool use, communication, the ability to plan ahead, mourning death, etc.- have been found wanting; all EXCEPT FOR THE ABILITY TO LAUGH AT A FART.
“Fart” is one of the oldest words in the English language, in cherished use for over a thousand years. Chaucer had TWO of his “Canterbury Tales” incorporate farting- including an incident where a fellow tricks a romantic rival into kissing his bare bottom, whereupon he lets one rip right in the other fellow’s face. Truly classical literature- he recognized the can concerto’s centrality to our lives.
I BELIEVE the first primitive that daubed paint on the wall of a cave 50,000 years ago laughed when he heard a fanny bomb.
I BELIEVE that 200,000 years from now, man- or his cosmos-faring offspring- will still laugh at the sound of a trouser toot.
And, wonder of wonders, we find we are unique in the universe-the only race we know of that is able to derive comedic pleasure from the simple bodily function known as… the fart.
It’s enough to take your breath away.
Golden wisdom, sir. I want this as a needlepoint sampler.
Hurrah! Future generations shall be judged by the Burns Updated Turing Test. When faced with the possibility of an extraterrestrial intelligence, we will immediately know if true communication is possible.
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