The Bottom and Breaking Wind

Back in May I wrote about a book I had just purchased, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It’s a tome of interesting and curious words and definitions, and, as the title implies, phrases and fables that have been retained in or incorporated into the English language over millennia.

It’s a really fun reference.

Recently – as a much-needed break from all the bad, sad, maddening news of the world – I picked up Brewer’s and followed a path that had come up as an aside in an earlier search: farting.

Graphic: Freepik

Who doesn’t laugh at farts? Who doesn’t love a good fart joke? As the feature photo for this post proves, fart jokes have been universally popular forever.

And – what writer doesn’t want to improve their vocabulary with handy euphemisms for farting and bottoms?

So, as Monty Python’s Flying Circus would say, And now for something completely different from my usual posts about the natural world (although, arguably, farts and human bottoms are part of the natural world).

Breaking wind. Wikipedia.

The following is portion of the Brewer’s entry on this – ahem – anatomically blustery topic.

The Bottom and Breaking Wind

…Scots have often been described as feisty, a word which derives from feist, meaning ‘small dog’, from Middle English fist ‘to break wind.’ So perhaps, one fancies, this is why their clergy instituted buttock-mail, a fine exacted by the church in commutation of sitting on the stool of repentence – or an elaborate version of ‘blame it on the dog’.

…The range of sounds produced by the bottom is consonant with suggested onomatopoeic origins in the etymology of such words as partridge (from Old French pertis, alteration of perdis, from Latin peridicem ‘plover, lapwing’, down to Middle English farten) – the whirring of the birds’ wings producing the obvious association.

We should not forget that reverence has been duly paid to the bottom throughout history, and the pleasingly apposite and beautiful-sounding calliphygian, ‘having buttocks that are beautifully proportioned or finely developed’, is, appropriately enough, borrowed from an epithet of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and desire. Kallipygos, from kallos ‘beauty’ and pyge ‘buttock’, is one of the more charming sobriquets of the goddess.

Unfortunately, the atemporal perfection of Aphrodite’s derriere is just not natural, and the adjective dasypygeal, ‘having hairy buttocks’, also of Greek origin, attests to less celebrated, yet more frequently occurring, phenomena.

Today, there is a vast array of phrases describing the bottom and its necessary functions, with the majority favouring farting, of course. Socially, though, the onus – yes, onus – is always on you, giving rise to such wholesome injunctions as: “He who smelled it, dealt it!” Further phrases, sayings and euphemisms of this ilk follow below (as they should):

Synonyms of bottom or buttocks

Anus, Ass, Booty, Bum, Buns, Butt, Butt cleavage, Callipygan, Derriere, Fundament, Glutes, Gluteus Maximus, Posterior, Pygophilia: sexual arousal from seeing or touching the buttocks of another person; Plumber’s crack: builders are equally guilty of revealing their ‘butt cleavage’, Rear, Rump, Seat, Tush.

Euphemisms for flatulence

Air bagel, Anal applause, Ass blast, Bean blower, Benchwarmer, Better open a window, Booty bomb, Bottom burp, Break wind, Butt bazooka, Butt trumpet, Buttock bassoon, Chair air, Cheek flapper, Cheek squeak, Colonic Calliope, Death breath, Duck call, Exhume the dinner corpse, Fart, Fecal fume, Flatulence, Flatus, Foghorn, Gas, Gluteal maximus gas a mess, Heinous anus, Honk, Insane in the methane, Lay an egg, Let one fly, Let one go, Let one rip, Methane pain, Moon gas, Mud duck, Paint peeler, Room clearer, Silent-but-violent, Silly cyanide, Skunk bait, Sphincter whistle, Toot, Trouser trumpet, Under thunder, Venting, Whiff, Whoopee, Zinger.


Rating the Funniness of Farts

Now that you’ve acquired so many ways to refer to farts, did you know there’s a way to rate how funny a fart is? There is! A mathematical formula, no less!

According to an article in The Sun, a team led by neuroscientist Dr. Helen Pilcher studied 176 types of farts, ranging from the “common quack” and “cheeky squeaker” to the “thunder blunder” to figure out which farts are the funniest. After a public vote on some 176 types of fart, using electronics or a human voice actor to produce the sounds, the team came up with a formula for determining the funny factor.

F = (I x L) S x k divided by (A x g) where I stands for intensity in decibels, L for length in seconds and S for social embarrassment (rated on a scale of 1 to 3).

The letter k is number of kids present and A the age of the listener.

G represents the gender factor — women’s farts are funnier, so multiply by 1.05.

An info-graphic of dubious use. You’re welcome.

Feature image: Fart Battle, a scroll from Japan’s Edo Period, 1603-1868.

14 thoughts on “The Bottom and Breaking Wind”

    1. Right? Useless information, but oh so fun.

      Good observation about Harry Potter! So…I checked Brewer’s. Starting with “Harry Potter” I was delighted to find an entry, although only to send me to “Potter.” There, one finds a lengthy entry about the boy-wizard’s adventures as chronicled in Rowling’s novels, but it fails to connect the whimsical nature of many of Brewer’s entries with the Harry Potter stories. Oh well. It was a good thought 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s