Americans have some odd notions about flatulence: that it's a bad thing not engaged in by polite or important people. Can you imagine Jon Stewart or any of the Supremes passing gas? How about nuns? While it's a stretch to imagine the President breaking wind, somehow it seems plausible that some minor state Governor might.
And fart jokes are not regarded as sophisticated humor. I doubt that the New York Times or The New Yorker give examples of those. Yes, it probably is a carryover from our European heritage and the emulation of the upper class.
However, there has been a noisy and smelly undercurrent to these inhibitions regarding flatulence. After all, Benjamin Franklin wrote Fart Proudly. And you can always count on that countercultural source of less-than-polite humor, preteen boys, to furnish new examples of scatological humor. I would not be totally surprised if there are subrosa classes on how to tell fart jokes during recesses for seventh grade. After all, many have found that they have an easy strategy for impressing early teen girls. I think that we should regard them for what they are: a bona fide form of Americana!
Lest anyone dismiss this form of humor as suggestive of the unsophisticated humor of the Americans, let's consider some historical examples. The Roman Emperor Elegabarus entertained himself and guests with an ancient example of a Whoopee cushion! Le Pétomane entertained French audiences at the Folies Bergère with tunes produced from his rear trumpet! Of course, Geoffrey Chaucer had this description of how Nicholas saluted Absalom through the window in The Miller's Tale of Canterbury Tales:
"This Nicholas anon let fle a fart
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent
That with the strook he was almost yblent (blinded)
And he was ready with iron hoot
And Nicholas ammyd the ers he smoot."
In other words, Absalom hit him in the butt with a hot poker in response to his fart.
Therefore, be fearless in your enjoyment of this sort of humor. However, the Fire Marshal might take a jaundiced view of your igniting one!
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