Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Audible flatulence etiquette?
May 11, 2005 6:16 AM   Subscribe

What is the courtesy, etiquette, and/or best way to handle audible flatulence?

Assume for the sake of this question that you're discernable as the source, either due to sonar or to simply being in a one-on-one situation.

Is it best just to pretend it didn't happen (my current tactic), or is an apology in order? (I think not, unless the smell is atrocious, simply due to the awkwardness such an apology would engender in the opposite person. How does one accept an apology for flatulence?)

Is it best not to bring it up verbally, but to widen by at least a small amount of space between yourself and the individual, so as to minimize olfactory offense? (Done when the offense is bad.)

Not the most pleasant of topics, but it occurred to me this might be a situation in which polling the masses with an anonymous Ask MeFi question might be of use to all those embarrassed to bring it up. It's not exactly a facile topic of conversation, despite the fact that most of us do it.

By the way, I should append to this question that I'm really quite serious in asking this, and not meaning it in any sort of trollish fashion. It's societally unacceptable, in most situations, to talk about flatulence, so as a result there's not much discussion as to how to minimize embarrassment surrounding it.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (42 answers total)
 
What is the courtesy, etiquette, and/or best way to handle audible flatulence?

To excuse yourself and leave for a moment-- this prevents having to consider the situations described in the last 600 words of your description.

Seriously, if you don't know someone well enough to acknowledge a fart in their presence, don't fart in their presence. How hard is it to wait 30 seconds while you walk to the bathroom?

My apologies if you're a POW locked in a cell with a pretty girl you don't know very well.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:39 AM on May 11, 2005


I would say "Excuse me," in voice approximately as loud as the sound had been and then try to forget about it. It does happen to everyone sometimes. According to Miss Manners, others are supposed to act as though nothing at all had happened. I recall that she has written that since certain bodily functions don't exist, socially speaking, therefore they mustn't be mentioned. Too bad those who write her headlines aren't familiar with this rule.
posted by orange swan at 6:40 AM on May 11, 2005


Hang on, you're embarrassed enough about this to post anonymously, but expect us to answer non-anonymously? Isn't that a bit unfair?

Oh, alright then. I'll contribute. The worst time this sort of thing happens to me is in the gym. I know it's likely to happen, so I try and choose a treadmill/crosstrainer next to someone who's wearing headphones. Why not choose one on its own? Well, you never know who might walk up to the adjacent machine during the next 25 minutes and get subjected to the odious foghorn of exercise induced flatulence. That's why. Of course, if the headphone-wearer is one of those irritating perfectly dressed skinny not-a-hair-out-of-place fashion model types, that helps too. If the worst comes to the worst, and the audio-olfactory effects become obvious, the only possible course of action is to turn slightly more red whilst looking hard at the nearest other person - maybe even catching the attention of your neighbour, rolling your eyes and nodding at the innocent bystander, as if to say "guess who had beans for tea".
posted by handee at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2005


NEVER apologize. The awkward factor will increase exponentially. You must pretend it did not happen.

All this assumes a short sharp involuntary burst, with minimal/no smell impact. Anything more, and you're just not trying hard enough to suppress, and you shouldn't be out among the community unless and until you're willing to make a little effort.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:43 AM on May 11, 2005


It also depends on the social situation. A bunch of guys drinking beer and watching the game would warrant high-fives all around for a decent blast or at least a trip to the fridge for another round in the case of SBD.

In mixed company, pretend it never happened.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:48 AM on May 11, 2005


I usually respond the way Rodney Dangerfield does:

"Did somebody step on a duck?!?"

Seriously, the proper etiquette is to excuse yourself. Did your mother raise you in a barn?
posted by Doohickie at 6:56 AM on May 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I find a brazenly uninhibited shout of "Ship ahoy!" usually defuses the situation. Especially during sex.
posted by Decani at 6:56 AM on May 11, 2005 [3 favorites]


I mentioned this in #mefi and was asked to post this to this thread, though it is a little off-topic.

I have heard that offices which buy Aeron chairs en masse have a bit of a break-in period where people get used to the fact that farts in such chairs are quite fully audible and smellable. Typical office chairs are safe to fart in (gently) with no one being the wiser, but Herman Miller changed all that.... so beware!
posted by beth at 6:58 AM on May 11, 2005


My best friend farts very loud. The last time I was there, she blamed Rojo, her parrot. When she stepped out of the room, I discovered that Rojo really had learned to imitate her farts.

Like my best friend, Rojo also does not apologize.
posted by mischief at 7:05 AM on May 11, 2005


Pretend it never happened? No.

A simple "excuse me", and nothing more.
posted by Savannah at 7:16 AM on May 11, 2005


Miss Manners on the subject:

Acceptable noises. These are noises such as burping or the sounds accompanying choking, to which the response should come from the noisemaker himself, provided that the choking was not complete, in which case he is absolved of all social responsibility except that of having left his papers in order. Society acknowledges that these noises are made from time to time, but does not dignify them with a response. The offender says "Excuse me," and the subject is considered closed.

Unacceptable noises. Miss Manners does not plan to mention them, chiefly because they are unmentionable, but you all know who you are. What they are. At any rate, these are noises that are acknowledged by neither the noisemaker nor the noise recipient, because socially they do not exist. The practice of staring hard at the person next to you when, for instance, your own stomach has given off a loud rumble, is therefore to be condemned on grounds of etiquette as well as morals.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:36 AM on May 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine has a cute little tactic. If he farts in public, he glares accusingly at whoever he's with... "NAOMI! I can't believe you!"

Alternatively, you can blame the recent infestation of Mediterranean Barking Spiders. They cross the ocean by clinging to imported cheeses and olives (their primary foods, which account for that distinctive aroma) and they cannot be seen with the naked eye. And of course they breed like mad, so eradication is impossible. The best you can hope for is containment.

On preview, I'd go with Miss Manners.
posted by naomi at 7:40 AM on May 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


I don't even pretend to be embarrassed about it. Everyone does it, who cares? It's like acting ashamed for coughing.
posted by cmonkey at 8:16 AM on May 11, 2005


OMG, barking spiders!! I honestly thought my dad made that up - he's been using barking spiders for 35 years!
posted by tristeza at 8:27 AM on May 11, 2005


Every time my dad stepped on a duck he'd fart.
He'd also fart any time there was a Barking Spider in the vicinity.
It's a gift.
posted by Floydd at 8:38 AM on May 11, 2005


Yell out I farted! and raise your hand. Fart again for emphasis, if you can.
posted by xmutex at 9:54 AM on May 11, 2005


Get a dog, sir.
posted by trondant at 9:57 AM on May 11, 2005


I'm so pleased other folks know about them damn barking spiders!

A farty story:

A friend of mine had a family dog that used to release lethal S.B.D.s on a semi-regular basis. This usually was most noticeable when the family was gathered in the living room, watching the telly; and my friend's father would exclaim "Phew! That damn dog!" And everyone would laugh and scold the dog. Well, as it happened, eventually the dog died. One night, the family (sans dog) were gathered in the living room, when an unbearable stench wafted through the room. "Phew! That damn dog!" said the father. There was a moment of silence, and he looked up to find the family staring at him.

Heh. To answer your question: simply pretend it didn't happen if you're with people you don't know very well or are in a formal situation. If you are in the presence of friends and feel comfortable doing so, make mention of barking spiders, ducks, parrots, or like xmutex, yell "Me! I did it! I farted!"
posted by Specklet at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2005


Seriously, if you don't know someone well enough to acknowledge a fart in their presence, don't fart in their presence. How hard is it to wait 30 seconds while you walk to the bathroom?

You obviously don't have an irritable bowel disorder, or know someone who does.

A friend of mine has a cute little tactic. If he farts in public, he glares accusingly at whoever he's with... "NAOMI! I can't believe you!"

You kidding? Haven't you heard of "Whoever smelt it, dealt it?"
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2005


I'd rather implode than fart publically - let alone admit that such a horror has ever befallen me. That being said, you can always embrace the humor of the situation or, ya know, just say 'excuse me' and leave it at that.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2005


Just use the standard blame transferral method.
posted by arc at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


Seriously, if you don't know someone well enough to acknowledge a fart in their presence, don't fart in their presence. How hard is it to wait 30 seconds while you walk to the bathroom?

Because sometimes even the farter is surprised. I mean, really. Surely everyone with an anus has had accidental flatulence.

I had this happen to me just a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, the two people I was with took it well. I just said, "Excuse me. It's just that I'm so comfortable with you two..." and we laughed and that was it.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:10 AM on May 11, 2005


Follow Benjamin Franklin's advice and Fart Proudly:
The Pleasure arising to a few Philosophers, from seeing, a few Times in their Life, the Threads of Light untwisted, and separated by the Newtonian Prism into seven Colors, can it be compared with the Ease and Comfort every Man living might feel seven times a Day, by discharging freely the Wind from his Bowels?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:12 AM on May 11, 2005


You kidding? Haven't you heard of "Whoever smelt it, dealt it?"

This is of course trumped (so to speak) by the "The one who denied it, supplied it" defense.
posted by Capn at 11:15 AM on May 11, 2005


Hold it in! If you can't hold it in you should be in the bathroom because you never know what else will come out when you have lost control down there.

If it must happen though, I support the denial method. Look around at everyone else suspiciously.

If it is one on one, say "sorry, excuse me, I ate taco bell for lunch, etc." You have to joke to lighten the mood and act like you are one of those assholes who finds amusement in farting, otherwise you just look like you can't control yourself.

If there is a dog, of course blame it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:35 AM on May 11, 2005


Where in the hell did the barking spiders thing come from? My SO says that all the time, too, and I thought it was just a terrible joke he made up, not a terrible joke he actually learned from somewhere.
posted by raedyn at 11:44 AM on May 11, 2005


I dunno raedyn, my ex did that AND the 'stepped on a duck' thing.

Of course I've got exactly no room to judge, because I find the whole subject STUPID funny.

Yes, I am 12 years old.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2005


I was once on a crowded Muni bus, wherein someone made a loud, rude, and embarrassing sound. After a brief and uncomfortable silence, someone loudly said, "Gesundheit."
posted by fandango_matt at 12:03 PM on May 11, 2005 [1 favorite]


You kidding? Haven't you heard of "Whoever smelt it, dealt it?"

This is of course trumped (so to speak) by the "The one who denied it, supplied it" defense.


Capn... that is trumped by... "Whoever said the rhyme, did the crime."
posted by banished at 12:12 PM on May 11, 2005


I friggin' love Ben Franklin.

Did somebody step on a duck?
posted by keswick at 12:20 PM on May 11, 2005


If you know that a fart is coming and you're worried about people hearing it, it's best to mask it with some other sound like loud coughing.
posted by randomstriker at 12:35 PM on May 11, 2005


Or exusing yourself and going somewhere less public.
posted by rudyfink at 12:58 PM on May 11, 2005


ok, randomstriker is absolutely wrong. Although the spectacle of people trying this - hacking and farting at the same time - is immensely entertaining, it doesn't mask a god damn thing. It does serve to draw further attention to the individual in question, though.

To answer the original question: please don't ignore it. Everyone heard it. And they'll probably smell it soon. It was not a ghost fart. If possible, excuse yourself beforehand and head outside the room. If not, excuse yourself, chuckle a little, and move on. We've all got digestive tracts, we all fart. Some of the neuroticism about it in this thread is a little weird. Y'all need to go camping, I think.
posted by kavasa at 1:04 PM on May 11, 2005


They've invented some kind of fabric that goes in your underwear to absorb the odors now.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2005


The funniest line I have heard was when I was watching this puppeteer from Ireland named Falam (not sure of the spelling, but pronounced "fail-um"). He would create these puppets quickly out of crumpled up tape. Anyway, he made this crumpled up tape puppet of his grandmother who unapologetically explained it away thusly:
"Better an empty house than a bad tenant."
posted by blueberry at 1:31 PM on May 11, 2005


I like to say "Hot damn, I sure am lighting it up today. Want to have a farting contest?" or something like that.
posted by recursive at 2:02 PM on May 11, 2005


When I'm having a less-than-stellar day, this thread is one of the many reasons I appreciate MeFi so so so much.
posted by jeanmari at 2:20 PM on May 11, 2005


Acceptable noises. These are noises such as [...] sounds accompanying choking
Thank god this is acceptable. Imagine trying to ignore someone choking because it'd be a faux pas to acknowledge him.

Related : there was a video clip of a couple in bed, with the man ripping off a few, and escalating until ending with him shouting "OLE!". Does anyone have this clip?
posted by boo_radley at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2005


Imagine trying to ignore someone choking because it'd be a faux pas to acknowledge him.

I seem to recall that this happened in Victorian England. Women (mostly) would start choking, excuse themselves silently, and die in the bathroom if they couldn't resolve the problem on their own. Someone who is less lazy might want to look this up, though.
posted by breath at 2:56 PM on May 11, 2005


*wipes tears of laughter away.*

Whew, my family would take turns blaming farts on our dogs/cats/barking spiders/frogs/toads/each other. When I'm with the gf, i just let them rip, and only apologize and give warning if they are truly nosehair burners. In public, i try to hold them, but usually fail.

I am blessed with unusually hideous farts, and have been known to clear outside porches from a sidewalk twenty feet away.

~I'm making air biscuits, get 'em while they're hot!~
posted by schyler523 at 5:10 PM on May 11, 2005


posted by IndigoRain: They've invented some kind of fabric that goes in your underwear to absorb the odors now.

Here it is.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:10 PM on May 11, 2005


you know, i always thought the "barking spiders" thing was a zappa reference, but then i went back and googled it. i must have gotten confused since his label was/is called "barking pumpkin records"

maybe the line "barking spiders" appeared in a zappa song? i just don't know.

anyway, its great fun. my 4 year old now blames farts on barking spiders too!
posted by joeblough at 8:00 PM on May 11, 2005


« Older I'm looking for more music lik...   |  I'm thinking of going to South... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.