There’s something in the air today, marking a scientific breakthrough of sorts. Scientists out of the University of Exeter insist that smelling farts could actually prevent cancer, among other diseases. Uh, okay.
“Although hydrogen sulfide gas”—produced when bacteria breaks down food—”is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,” Dr. Mark Wood said in a university release.
Although the stinky gas can be noxious in large doses, the researchers seem to think that a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria. Researchers are even coming up with their own compound to emulate the stinky smell’s health benefits.
“‘We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria,” Professor Matt Whiteman, who worked on the study to be published in the Medicinal Chemistry Communications journal, said.
Isn’t it time you too got a whiff of the truth? Check out the brief history of the much-maligned fart from “Bawdy Language.”
Gone With the Wind
The fart’s fine lineage not withstanding, other reference works have been more standoffish. The esteemed Oxford English Dictionary unequivocally declared fart “not fit for proper use.” Nobody knows why the OED chose to close down this innocuous form of personal expression or how the decision was made. One can only imagine a group of eminent scholars gathered in their ivory tower, deliberating upon the fate of words, having a beer or two, and shooting the breeze.
“Personally, I favor letting off some rectal steam.”
“No, no! I much prefer an anal escape of wind.”
“Really gentlemen, it’s hard to top voiding wind from the bowels.”
“All in favor of the fart…”
Having to give us something to do, they finally agreed to let us have the vapors (16thC–19thC), “supposed emanations from internal organs or from substances within the body.”
Does the Australian gurk sound any better? Yet etymologist Richard Spears, in his classic dictionary of slang and euphemism, organized his synonyms (all 76 of them) for breaking wind under that particular obscurity, defining the category as “to release intestinal gas audibly.” Anything to avoid giving the fart its proper due.
And so the fart fell from grace—expelled from polite society and relegated to second-class status. Farting around (c. 1900) came to signify purposelessness; anything overly pretentious was arty- farty.” Farting off (c.1968) made you inattentive and neglectful, leading to one blunder after another, causing you to fart away (c.1928) or squander your opportunities.