"Stick that in your ass and smoke it!"
June 17, 2008 3:36 PM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the phrase "[to] blow smoke up [someone's] ass"?

While reading this book it occured to me that the phrase might have its origin in early resuscitation efforts. The stimulant properties of tobacco smoke were well known in the 18th century and apparently blowing tobacco smoke into the anus was an anecdotally-supported method of rescucitation (until Sir Benjamin Brodie's experiments in 1811 demonstrating the toxicity of tobacco and the ineffectiveness of anal fumigation). The author, Mickey Eisenberg, notes that "The process of of blowing smoke in the rectum seems bizarre today, but it is possible that the dilation of the anus by the tube provided some reflex stimulus of respiration." (pp. 61).

No OED handy and I've found nothing useful online. Perhaps the phrase has its origin in this ineffectual practice? Or am I way off?
posted by inoculatedcities to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Found some interesting stuff at gooja:


From: Donna Richoux (trio@euronet.nl)
Newsgroups: alt.usage.english
Date: 2003-11-26 06:37:34 PST

Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says that "to blow smoke" has meant "to
confuse, to mystify through speech," since the mid-19th century. They
consider "to blow smoke up someone's ass," recorded since the 1950s, to
be an intensification of that. They define it as "to confuse, to tell

A theory, possibly an urban legend bit of bs, is offered at:


(via my favorite word origins forum)
posted by bjork24 at 3:43 PM on June 17, 2008

Vapor, or tobacco smoke, clysters were the original terms I believe. It's a form of enema administration. Wikipedia cites it as the source of the term "to blow smoke up the ass", although they don't have a citation for it either.
posted by minus zero at 4:12 PM on June 17, 2008

Wikipedia cites it as the source of the term "to blow smoke up the ass", although they don't have a citation for it either.

Wikipedia has a lot of linguistic misinformation. I'd say Cassell has it right.
posted by languagehat at 5:22 PM on June 17, 2008

The Phrase Finder suggests that "blowing smoke" comes from stage magic, the same thing as in "smoke and mirrors." Connection mentioned again here.
posted by Miko at 5:31 PM on June 17, 2008

In one of Heinlein's latter novels, he wrote that literary critics were the only life form capable of blowing smoke up their own ass. (It is one of the connected novels involving Lazarus and the Hilda Corners crew)
posted by Goofyy at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2008

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