Utot

Well, I’ll bet you never expected to see a title like this on this column, or any column for that matter. Farts are almost never brought up in polite conversation, despite being a natural, innocent, and involuntary bodily function.

I got to thinking about farts because of my daughter D–. One of our first coherent exchanges was in the car. My wife E– was driving and I was sitting in the back seat with D–. Then I let out a big one.

I whispered to her conspiratorially: “Don’t…tell…Mama.”

She glanced at me — I think she smirked — then announced, quite loudly: “Mama! Mama! Papa utot!”

Certainly our daughter has comedic timing down pat.

Having been thrown under the bus notwithstanding, that got me thinking, why is flatulence so funny? My daughter is new to this world but already had that innate understanding that it’s mildly embarrassing, and can be a source of merriment socially.

Apparently I’m not the first person to ask this question. A short article from the University of Helsinki (https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/news/health-news/why-are-farts-funny) has a concise and scientific summary of farts, both physically and culturally. Anu Korhonen, professor of cultural studies, specializing in humor, has this to say:

“The funniness of farts is associated with uncontrollable physicality. Farts are a part of concealed physicality that pushes through to the surface. To paraphrase Mikhail Bakhtin, it’s part of the grotesque body.”

Furthermore: “In early jokes, one of the most important roles of the fart was to demonstrate our shared humanity and to add a modicum of equality between people: we are at the mercy of our bodies and capable of laughing together.”

So there you go, the academic answer.

More recently, it was D– who let out a huge one in front of her mom. It was so long and loud they both stopped and looked at each other.

E: “Was that you?”

D: (pause a beat)

D: “It’s an earthquake.”