Flatulence humor

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Farting in good cheer, 1798

Flatulence humour or flatulence humor refers to any type of joke, practical joke device, or other off-color humor related to flatulence.


Although it is likely that flatulence humor has long been considered funny in cultures that consider the public passing of gas impolite, such jokes are rarely recorded. Two important early texts are the 5th century BC plays The Knights and The Clouds, both by Aristophanes, which contain numerous fart jokes.[1][2] Another example from classical times appeared in Apocolocyntosis or The Pumpkinification of Claudius, a satire attributed to Seneca on the late Roman emperor:

At once he bubbled up the ghost, and there was an end to that shadow of a life…The last words he was heard to speak in this world were these. When he had made a great noise with that end of him which talked easiest, he cried out, "Oh dear, oh dear! I think I have made a mess of myself."[3]

He later explains he got to the afterlife with a quote from Homer:

"Breezes wafted me from Ilion unto the Ciconian land."[3]

German peasants greet the fire and brimstone from a papal bull of Pope Paul III in Martin Luther's 1545 Depictions of the Papacy.

Archeologist Warwick Ball asserts that the Roman Emperor Elagabulus played practical jokes on his guests, employing a whoopee cushion-like device at dinner parties.[4]

In the translated version of Penguin's 1001 Arabian Nights Tales, a story entitled "The Historic Fart" tells of a man who flees his country from the sheer embarrassment of farting at his wedding, only to return ten years later to discover that his fart had become so famous, that people used the anniversary of its occurrence to date other events. Upon learning this he exclaimed, "Verily, my fart has become a date! It shall be remembered forever!" His embarrassment is so great he returns to exile in India. [5]

In a similar vein, John Aubrey's Brief Lives recounts of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford that: "The Earle of Oxford, making his low obeisance to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a Fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed that he went to Travell, 7 yeares. Upon his return home, the Queen greeted him, reportedly saying "My Lord, I had forgot the Fart."[6]

One of the most celebrated incidents of flatulence humor in early English literature is in The Miller's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, which dates from the 14th century; The Summoner's Tale has another. In the first, the character Nicholas sticks his buttocks out of a window at night and humiliates his rival Absolom by farting in his face. But Absolom gets revenge by thrusting a red-hot plough blade between Nicholas's cheeks ("ammyd the ers")

"Sing, sweet bird, I kneen nat where thou art!"
This Nicholas anon let fle a fart
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent
That with the strook he was almost yblent (blinded)
And he was ready with iron hoot
And Nicholas ammyd the ers he smoot.[7]

The medieval Latin joke book Facetiae includes six tales about farting.

François Rabelais' tales of Gargantua and Pantagruel are laden with acts of flatulence. In Chapter XXVII of the second book, the giant, Pantagruel, releases a fart that "made the earth shake for twenty-nine miles around, and the foul air he blew out created more than fifty-three thousand tiny men, dwarves and creatures of weird shapes, and then he emitted a fat wet fart that turned into just as many tiny stooping women."[8]

The plays of William Shakespeare include several humorous references to flatulence, including the following from Othello:

CLOWN: Are these, I pray you, wind instruments?
FIRST MUSICIAN: Ay marry are they, sir.
CLOWN: O, thereby hangs a tail.
FIRST MUSICIAN: Whereby hangs a tail, sir?
CLOWN: Marry, sir, by many a wind instrument that I know.[9]

Benjamin Franklin, in his open letter "To the Royal Academy of Farting", satirically proposes that converting farts into a more agreeable form through science should be a milestone goal of the Royal Academy.[10]

In Mark Twain's 1601, properly named [ Date: 1601.] Conversation, as it was the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors, a cupbearer at Court who's a Diarist reports:

In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore.[11]

The Queen inquires as to the source, and receives various replies. Lady Alice says:

Good your grace, an' I had room for such a thundergust within mine ancient bowels, 'tis not in reason I coulde discharge ye same and live to thank God for yt He did choose handmaid so humble whereby to shew his power. Nay, 'tis not I yt have broughte forth this rich o'ermastering fog, this fragrant gloom, so pray you seeke ye further."[11]

In the first chapter of Moby Dick, the narrator states:

...I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim)...[12]

The Pythagoreans led an ascetic lifestyle which included a prohibition against the consumption of beans.

Inculpatory pronouncements[edit]

The sourcing of a fart involves a ritual of assignment that sometimes takes the form of a rhyming game. These are frequently used to discourage others from mentioning the fart or to turn the embarrassment of farting into a pleasurable subject matter.[13] The trick is to pin the blame on someone else, often by means of deception, or using a back and forth rhyming game that includes phrases such as the following:[14]

  • He who declared it blared it.
  • He who observed it served it.
  • He who detected it ejected it.
  • He who rejected it respected it.
  • He who smelt it dealt it.
  • He who denied it supplied it.
  • He who said the rhyme did the crime.
  • Whoever spoke last set off the blast.
  • etc.

Assigning blame to another can backfire: a joke about royalty has the Queen emitting flatulence, and then turning to a nearby page, exclaiming, "Arthur, stop that!" The page replies, "Yes, Your Majesty. Which way did it go?"

Practical jokes[edit]

A Dutch oven is a slang term for lying in bed with another person and pulling the covers over the person's head while flatulating, thereby creating an unpleasant situation in an enclosed space.[15] This is done as a prank or by accident to one's sleeping partner.[16] The book The Alphabet of Manliness discusses the Dutch oven and a phenomenon it refers to as the "Dutch oven surprise", that "happens if you force it too hard".[17] The Illustrated Dictionary of Sex refers to this as a Dutch treat.[18]

A connection between relationships and performing a Dutch oven has been discussed in two undergraduate student newspaper articles[19][20] and in actress Diane Farr's relationships/humor book The Girl Code.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Knights By Aristophanes" (TXT). Classics.mit.edu. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  2. ^ "The Clouds By Aristophanes" (TXT). Classics.mit.edu. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b "E-text No. 10001, English translation of the Apocolocyntosis by W. H. D. Rouse, 1920". Project Gutenberg.
  4. ^ Warwick Ball P412, Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire Routledge, 2001 ISBN 0-415-24357-2
  5. ^ "Arabian Nights: The Historic Fart". Pitt.edu. 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  6. ^ Aubrey, John (1898). "Brief Lives". Oxford. p. 270.
  7. ^ The Miller's Prologue and Tale (lines 3805–3810)
  8. ^ François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel. W.W. Norton & Co. 1990, p.214
  9. ^ "Puns in Othello". Study.com. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  10. ^ Benjamin Franklin, To the Royal Academu of Farting, c. 1781, at teachingamericanhistory.org
  11. ^ a b "1601 by Mark Twain". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  12. ^ Herman Melville. "Moby Dick". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  13. ^ Blank, Trevor J. "Cheeky Behavior: The Meaning and Function of 'Fartlore' in Childhood and Adolescence." Children's Folklore Review Vol. 32 (2010): 61–85.
  14. ^ Blank (2010), pp. 68–69.
  15. ^ Patridge, Ben. The MANual – Surviving Pregnancy. Bennovations. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-9721066-6-5. A 'Dutch oven' is when you are lying in bed with someone, you pull the covers over their heads and expel gas from the anus, thereby trapping them with your pungent gift
  16. ^ Partridge, Eric; Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (9 ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 679. ISBN 978-0-415-25937-8.
  17. ^ "If you happen to be in bed sleeping with someone, what you do is drop the nastiest, juiciest broccoli fart under the covers. Then while your partner is still sleeping, lift the covers over her head and then wait until the fart dissipates." Maddox. The Alphabet of Manliness. Citadel Press, 2006 ISBN 0-8065-2720-X, 978-0-8065-2720-8, 204 pages p.66
  18. ^ Roberts, Keath (2007-11-30). Illustrated Dictionary of Sex. Lotus Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 978-81-89093-59-4.
  19. ^ Pat Corran and Lara Luepke "Dutch oven" February 24, 2003 The Spectator (University of Wisconsin Eau Claire) [1] Archived March 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ ""To fart without persecution, to want only to thrust one's blankets overhead and roguishly execute the Dutch Oven; those, my friends, are the truths our Founding Fathers held to be self-evident. To my brothers who still await with sphincters clenched (sans Brokeback), your day approaches. Stay strong." Jonathan Pitts-Wiley "Keeping it tight with your girlfriend" while still letting one rip". Yale Daily News. February 17, 2006. Archived from the original on 19 November 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  21. ^ Diane Farr. The Girl Code: the secret language of single women (on dating, sex, shopping, and honor among girlfriends) Little, Brown and Company, 2001 ISBN 0-316-26061-4, ISBN 978-0-316-26061-9, 192 pages page 172