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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fart is an English language vulgarism most commonly used in reference to flatulence. The word "fart" is generally considered unsuitable in a formal environment by modern English speakers, and it may be considered vulgar or offensive in some situations. Fart can be used as a noun or a verb.[1] The immediate roots are in the Middle English words ferten, feortan or farten; which is akin to the Old High German word ferzan. Cognates are found in old Norse, Slavic and also Greek and Sanskrit. The word "fart" has been incorporated into the colloquial and technical speech of a number of occupations, including computing.

Fart is sometimes used as a non-specific derogatory epithet, often to refer to 'an irritating or foolish person', and potentially an elderly person, described as an 'old fart'. This may be taken as an insult when used in the second or third person, but can potentially be a term of endearment, or an example of self deprecatory humour when used in the first person.[2] The phrase 'boring old fart' was popularised in the UK in the late 1970s by the New Musical Express while chronicling the rise of punk. It was used to describe hippies and establishment figures in the music industry, forces of inertia against the new music.



The English word fart is one of the oldest words in the English vocabulary. Its Indo-European origins are confirmed by the many cognate words in other Indo-European languages: It is cognate with Greek πέρδομαι (perdomai), Latin pēdĕre, Sanskrit pardate, Avestan pərəδaiti, and Russian пердеть (perdet'), Polish "pierd" << PIE *perd [break wind loudly] or *pezd [the same, softly], all of which mean the same thing. Like most Indo-European roots in the Germanic languages, it was altered by Grimm's law, so that Indo-European /p/ > /f/, and /d/ > /t/, as the German cognate furzen also manifests.[3][4][5]

Vulgarity and offensiveness

German peasants greet the fire and brimstone from a papal bull of Pope Paul III in Martin Luther's 1545 Depictions of the Papacy.

In certain circles the word is considered merely a common profanity with an often humorous connotation. For example, a person may be referred to as a 'fart', or an 'old fart', not necessarily depending on the person's age. This may convey the sense that a person is boring or overly fussy and be intended as an insult, mainly when used in the second or third person. For example '"he's a boring old fart!" However the word may be used as a colloquial term of endearment or in an attempt at humorous self-deprecation (e.g., in such phrases as "I know I'm just an old fart" or "you do like to fart about!"). 'Fart' is often only used as a term of endearment when the subject is personally well known to the user. In both cases though, it tends to refer to personal habits or traits that the user considers to be a negative feature of the subject, even when it is a self-reference. For example, when concerned that a person is being overly methodical they might say 'I know I'm being an old fart', potentially to forestall negative thoughts and opinions in others. When used in an attempt to be offensive, the word is still considered vulgar, but it remains a mild example of such an insult. This usage dates back to the Medieval period, where the phrase 'not worth a fart' would be applied to an item held to be worthless.[6]

Historical examples

The word fart in Middle English occurs in "Sumer Is Icumen In", where one sign of summer is "bucke uerteþ" (the buck farts). It appears in several of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. In "The Miller's Tale", Absolon has already been tricked into kissing Alison's buttocks when he is expecting to kiss her face. Her boyfriend Nicholas hangs his buttocks out of a window, hoping to trick Absolon into kissing his buttocks in turn and then passes gas in the face of his rival. In "The Summoner's Tale", the friars in the story are to receive the smell of a fart through a twelve spoked wheel.

The word fart was in pre-modern times not considered especially vulgar and could often be encountered in literary works. Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, included the word. Johnson defined it with two poems, one by Jonathan Swift, the other by Sir John Suckling.[7][8] In 1607, a group of Members of Parliament had written a ribald poem entitled The Parliament Fart, as a symbolic protest against the conservatism of the House of Lords and the king, James I.[9][10]

Modern usage

By the early twentieth century, the word "fart" had come to be considered rather vulgar in most English-speaking cultures. While not one of George Carlin's original seven dirty words, he noted in a later routine that the word fart , ought to be added to "the list" of words that were not acceptable (for broadcast) in any context (which have non-offensive meanings), and described television as (then) a "fart-free zone".[11] Thomas Wolfe had the phrase 'a fizzing and sulphuric fart' cut out of his 1929 work Look Homeward, Angel by his publisher. Ernest Hemingway, who had the same publisher, accepted the principle that fart could be cut, on the grounds that no one should use words only to shock.[12] The hippy movement in the 1970s saw a new definition develop, with the use of fart as a personal noun, to describe a 'detestable person, or someone of small stature or limited mental capacity', gaining wider and more open usage as a result.[13]

Rhyming slang developed the alternative form 'Raspberry Tart', later shortened to 'Raspberry', and occasionally 'Razz'. This was associated with the phrase 'blowing a raspberry'.[14] The word has become more prevalent, and now features in children's literature, such as the Walter the Farting Dog series of children's books, Robert Munsch's Good Families Don't and The Gas We Pass by Shinta Cho. Teachers in American schools have been encouraged to use books about farts to make children more comfortable with the word.[15]

According to the The Alphabet of Manliness, the assigning of blame for farting is part of a ritual of behaviour. This may involve deception and a back and forth rhyming game.[16]

In other usage

As a verb phrase

Following on from 'fart' being used to refer to an irritating or foolish person, the verb phrase 'fart around', meaning to spend time foolishly or aimlessly is also utilised. Again this can be in a humorous attempt at a term of endearment, or as an insult.[1] The implication is that the person is being a 'fart', and otherwise is wasting time, or achieving little.

As a lapse in concentration

The term 'brain fart', often used as a synonym for a 'senior moment', or a momentary lapse in concentration or occurrence of forgetfulness, such as an Absence seizure. It is a more modern usage, similar in derivation to the term fart to denote uselessness or a period of low achievement. In some cases, particularly the corporate world, it may be used to describe a situation where a person has spoken out of turn to a superior figure. This usage implies a momentary lack of forethought and a break in good sense, which may be colloquially explained away as the result of a 'brain fart'.[17]

Other usages

Fart has been used to name cocktails, an example being a 'Duck fart', playing on the humorous reference to flatulence—an example of toilet humour.[18] It has also been used in the term 'fart sack', military slang for a bed or sleeping bag.[19] A 'nun's fart' is a French term for a type of sweet dessert sprinkled with sugar.[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Hacker dictionary
  3. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition, 2000)
  4. ^ Dictionnaire Hachette de la Langue Française, (Hachette, 1995) ISBN 0-317-45629-6
  5. ^ T. G. Tucker, Etymological Dictionary of Latin, (Halle, 1931, repr. Ares Publishers, 1985) ISBN 0-89005-172-0
  6. ^ Hughes, Geoffrey (2000). A History of English Words. Blackwell Publishing. p. 130. ISBN 063118855X. 
  7. ^ Evans, Ron (2002). Coming Home: Saskatchewan Remembered. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 95. ISBN 1550023799. 
  8. ^ An ill wind. Some fascinating facts about farting
  9. ^ Marotti, Arthur (1995). Manuscript, print, and the English renaissance lyric. Cornell University Press. p. 113. ISBN 0801482380. 
  10. ^ Ode to fart gets airing at last
  11. ^ "Bot generated title ->". George Carlin<!. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  12. ^ Leff, Arthur (1997). Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 105. ISBN 0847685454. 
  13. ^ McCleary (2004). The Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s. Ten Speed Press. p. 174. ISBN 1580085474. 
  14. ^ Burridge, Kate (2005). Weeds in the Garden of Words: Further Observations on the Tangled History of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0521853133. 
  15. ^ Holgate & Baldwin (2008). From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America's Public Schools. WND Books. p. 138. ISBN 0979267110. 
  16. ^ Maddox, Angelo Vildasol. Alphabet of Manliness. p. 64.,M1. 
  17. ^ net lingo
  18. ^ Drinksmixer.con
  19. ^ Fart sack at Sex-lexis
  20. ^ Crumpacker, Bunny (2007). The Sex Life of Food: When Body and Soul Meet to Eat. Macmillan. p. 124. ISBN 0312363761. 

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