Let's Take A Closer Look

Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

A friend sent a noise yesterday, February 5th, in honor of National Fart Day. I decided to take a closer look and found it is “a comical holiday celebrated for humorous purposes.” I also found there is a National Pass Gas Day, a Fart Out Loud Day and much more.


This is a common bodily process that happens to most people several times a day. It is defined as flatus (gas) generated in the stomach or bowels and expelled through the anus. Contrast this with gas expelled through the mouth, called belching and burping. The problem on commercial airplanes is people are affected by changes in cabin pressure, significantly increasing the flatus factor while crowding too many people into too-small spaces. 


Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers who wrote and signed the United States Declaration of Independence. He was also a scientist, publisher of his Poor Richard’s Almanack (sic), philosopher, diplomat and inventor. Most of us know he invented bifocals, the lightning rod and a better stove that produced more heat while reducing smoke. I just learned he invented swim fins when he was 11.

In 1781, Ben wrote “Fart Proudly” as a joke and shared it only with friends. In it, he challenged the Royal Academy at Brussels to invent pills that would change the aroma of our expulsions to wonderful perfumes of our own choosing. Here’s one paragraph:

“It is universally well-known that in digesting our common food, there is produced in the bowels of human creatures a great quantity of wind. Permitting this air to escape and mix with the atmosphere is usually offensive to others because of the fetid smell that accompanies it. To avoid giving such offence, all well-bred people should forcibly restrain the efforts of nature to discharge that wind.” The essay ends not with a bang, but a snicker, when Ben says the idea is “not worth a farthing.”

The asparagus gene

Franklin also mentioned in this Letter to the Royal Academy how he’d like to change the smell our urine takes on after we’ve eaten asparagus. I’d heard of the asparagus gene and understood it to mean only some urine contains the very distinctive smell. While taking a closer look, I learned that all asparagus eaters’ urine has this characteristic odor but more than half can’t smell it because of how 871 of their own genes are arranged. So the odor is always there but nearly half of all people can’t smell it – seems weird, doesn’t it?

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

Foods that are harder to digest increase intestinal gas that results in flatulence. Everyone knows “Beans, beans, the musical fruit; the more you eat, the more you toot; the more you toot, the better you feel; so let’s have beans for every meal.” Most know other causes of flatulence, including lactose, sodas, beer and what Brits call the wind vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc).

A search for <farts> delivered 12 million hits

Farts are the leaders in juveniles’ fascination with vulgarisms and things that provoke disgust in adults. fartshare.com invites one and all to come over to “The greatest fart website in the world, where you can rate farts, listen to real fart sounds or anonymously contribute to FartShare on the mobile app.”

Le Pétomane

Farting became big-time entertainment in the late 19th century when Joseph Pujol found he could make fart sounds on demand by inhaling air through his rectum and exhaling it like a burp. The fartiste learned to produce musical notes and soon was playing tunes. He turned pro and became famous as the virtuoso of the most personal of all wind instruments. 

Pujol (pronounced POO-hole) called himself The Flatuist and toured the world playing to packed houses who came to see him blow out candles, smoke cigarettes and play the flute. It is said his inhalation capacity was two quarts of air. In 1979, his life was made into a 33-minute film.

Advocates favor reducing the shame associated with public flatulence

Promoters of National Fart Day tell us “the average human secretly craves the freedom to fart whenever and wherever they choose” and urge us to do so. Thankfully, I don’t meet their definition of average.


I’d hoped to read in this morning’s Chicago Tribune that hundreds of people in the Windy City loaded up on cabbage and beer and went over to the promoter’s office for a festive celebration where someone broke the Guinness record for a continuous release of 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Maybe next year.


It’s too late to celebrate this year, but you’ve got plenty of time to start on an online business that sells gift baskets of Brussels Sprouts, Beans, Broccoli and Beer. Until then, do like your favorite uncle and ask a little kid to pull your finger or give one of many thoughtful gifts like this.

Want to look at old things in new ways, see the commonplace in more detail and hear complicated subject matter explained in simple terms?

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