For Fart’s Sake

I wasn’t sure I could pull off a post about farting. A friend and I had been laughing about it, so it seemed funny, but maybe it was one of those “had to be there” moments, and you all would scratch your heads if I attempted to translate it here. But a couple of things happened on the way to writing about farting: Another friend told me about a group of poets who collaborated on a fart poem, and I saw the picture above on a pole walking in Boston. Clearly the universe was sending me messages. But the final push was my Scrabble app dictionary declaring that “fart” was not a word. Then, I knew I had to speak up for fart justice. Starting with the unjust fact that Scrabble does allow “damn,” a swear word. I thought Scrabble perhaps had some high literary standard and a soft spot for Lady Macbeth, but that argument fell down when the Scrabble dictionary also included “selfie,” which has been a word for about five minutes. Whereas, according to my faded, dog-eared Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary that survived my college days, a house fire, and numerous moves, fart has been around as a verb since the 13th century and as a noun since the 14th century. The second definition of fart as a noun is a foolish or contemptible person. I may have to try to bring that definition back in fashion, especially if Trump becomes president. I’ve only heard it used in the phrase, “old fart” to refer to an old fuddy-duddy person, but I like the nuanced layering of foolish and contemptible. Of course both definitions point out that the word is “usu. considered vulgar.”

Bless you, dictionary printed in 1983. In this world of Kardashians, celeb tell-alls, and social media debauchery, I daresay not much is considered vulgar anymore. That is unless you’re the anti-fart Scrabble people. But they need to get a grip—it’s hard enough to find small words to use your f in the game.

The topic came up when my friend who was visiting his parents texted me that his dad had just let one rip, but no one acknowledged it. Then he asked about my family’s fart handling. Which then led me to think about all the ways people handle or don’t handle farting. For example, to throw my own family under the bus, when my dad lets one rip, he laughs really hard and in a way that suggests a sarcastic pride in a great achievement. But he’s 87, so he can do whatever the hell he wants.

But before I could think about other ways, my friend asked me if I’d ever heard of a Dutch oven, as it relates to farting. I soon learned it’s when you are lying next to someone in bed, you fart, and then pull the covers over and tuck them in under both of you to trap the smell. It was unclear in our texted conversation if that is supposed to be a pleasure or punishment for your partner, but I suppose that’s in the nose of the beholder.

Being Dutch, I momentarily wondered why the Dutch, when they are referred to at all, tend to have unflattering phrases, like “Dutch treat” and now “Dutch oven.” Yes, I understand it’s named after a useful kitchen pot, but the French also have their version called a French oven or cassoulet – but somehow I can’t see the French allowing any association of their precious foodie cooking tools with a fart.

But I digress.

I commented that the Dutch oven sounded like something straight and gay guys would do—I couldn’t imagine straight or gay women putting up with that nonsense. Indeed, my scientific survey of 5 women friends revealed that only one knew what it was and another thought she’d read it in a book. No one fessed up to doing it. The guys claim they been ovened by their older siblings. Interesting.

But to continue this very serious line of inquiry, we must consider the kinds of farts and the social mores of blame assignments, must we not? There are the silent, but deadly farts that are easily denied in a group. Dog owners report that they often blame their dog. Listen up, fur balls, I hate to tell you this, but your human “friends” are throwing you under the bus. Of the farts that can be heard, many people own up to it, and by people I mean men and boys. In some cases they even use it in a close-combat, targeted way to destroy their enemies or at least annoy little sisters. Little brothers seem to be immune to this kind of attack.

Then there is the bald-faced lie approach. I know someone who is a power farter. It comes out fast and furious and he looks me in the eye and says, aren’t you embarrassed? Nice try, cheeky monkey.

My friends and I experienced group farting once, not ours of course (that’s the demure tactic, i.e., I’m too sophisticated to fart unless you catch me at it). We were hiking in the White Mountains and stayed in one of the Presidential Range huts. They have big coed sleeping rooms, with bunks stacked three high, and this one had close to 30 people in it. We’d been to many of the huts, and they generally have a similar layout, but we had never encountered the gaseous symphony like that night. It kept us up, first because a few of the worse offenders were so loud, and then because it was so stupidly funny.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a bit of farting scientific inquiry. In college, we read that farts are flammable. Because we were such excellent students, we had the intellectual curiosity to test that statement. Luckily, one person in our group was a master and could fart at will. That’s key if you’re trying this at home. First we attempted to light it while the master let one rip, but we soon realized that you only have a second to make the magic happen, and she knew best when that moment would be. Plus she didn’t trust us with a flame quite so close to her ass, and I will admit her instincts were probably sound on that count. In any event, after a few tries, we discovered that, yes, indeed, you can light your farts.

So there you have it, a blog about farting. Feel free to add your fart tactics/stories in the comments below. It’s part of a campaign to get the Scrabble people to add “fart” to the app. Fart justice must prevail.

This just in, after I posted this. My friend and DJ Brian Halligan called my attention to another very serious issue: farting on the dance floor. Please heed this all you flatulators! “Dear Everyone, Please Stop Farting on the Dance Floor



  1. I deeply support the inclusion of this word in the Scrabble app, and I believe it is in at least one print version of the Scrabble dictionary. I will check that for you. I would just like to add (I just typed “ass” completely by accident. Assident.) that in Cranston, RI, the lost “r” in words is so strong, and the habit of writing in the lav stalls so normal, that I was almost a teenager before I learned that the word was not “fot.” Seriously.

  2. The Scrabble dictionary is one order of arbitrariness, and then if you also play Words with Friends (as Rona does), the difference between the lists of allowable words is arbitrariness squared.

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