Who woke the rabbit?


ARE you aware that I once wrote a column called Breaking the Wind? We all know what to “break wind” is, don’t we? For those of a nervous disposition, it is the rapid evacuation of rancid gases from the lower intestine under extreme pressure.

-Lenox Mhlanga

It so happened that one sunny afternoon I was standing at a street corner with a friend. We had just had amawoso (braai) with the usual deadly combination of onion, tomatoes and cucumber koJ Temba in Gwabalanda.

Suddenly, a revolting smell wafted around us.

I turned to him and asked, “Did you just let out some, eh, very bad air just now?”

To which he calmly responded, “Of course, I did. You don’t think I smell like this all the time, do you?” I was stunned.

The norm is that someone accused of “waking up the rabbit”, as we say in Ndebele, vehemently denies having done so.

So the term “breaking wind” came up, that is, the act of expelling a lot of hot air through the column.

Jim Dawson actually wrote a book Who Cut the Cheese, A Cultural History of the Fart. Imagine, someone sitting down to write 200 pages about shooting gas?

The term “to cut the cheese” originated when someone sliced into a new wheel of cheese, most likely a brick of Limburger, which stinks horribly despite it being fresh.

The average adult, writes a very serious Dawson, breaks wind six to 20 times a day!

It’s a combination of gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, oxygen, methane and hydrogen sulphide. It explains why the ozone layer is disappearing so fast.

The mind boggles when you imagine how all this data was collected.

Did people actually volunteer for a study with samples being analysed in a lab?

What a challenging vocation sniffing out the facts on flatulence must be.

What about the qualification, a degree in Fartology perhaps?

Ever notice that when you are tempted to let a silent one slip it actually breaks the sound barrier?

How embarrassing that can be when the woman of your dreams is in the vicinity.

But like everyone you tighten the face in a serious expression that tells everyone that you are definitely not the culprit. Allow me a slight diversion.

After having bravely prevented “you know what” from making a loud and humiliating exit in a bus for what seemed like hours, a friend arrived to what he thought was an empty house.

He opened the door and let it rip with a thunderous roar. Obviously relieved, he turned round to face his shocked in-laws who were by now gasping for air!

As far as bodily functions go, farting, eh, breaking wind, is as common as sneezing, yawning, coughing and peeing. It often happens simultaneously with these.

How many times do people either sneeze and poof or cough and poof or pee and proof at the same time?

When that happens in public, you just want to disappear into the bowels of the earth.

It is my suggestion that the status of breaking wind should be elevated so that we don’t have to feel bad.

Since I don’t see that happening in the short term, may I offer some advice on how to save face should you happen to accidentally let off, pop off, cut the cheese, fluff, poof, wake the rabbit up or whatever euphemism you choose to describe it.

You can look around as if trying to figure out who the rotten person was who had sugar beans and hot peppers for dinner.

It could be anyone, including the guy in an expensive Armani suit for that matter! Breaking wind knows no social boundaries.

Or you could brazen it out — acting as if it never happened even though it’s still ricocheting around the room.

How about shocking everyone by laughing and saying: “Hell wasn’t that a blast?My mum would be proud!” I am sure one or two will get the joke though I doubt if your mother would.

When you accidentally let it loose inside the blankets, quickly fluff the sheets to disperse the khwafume. If you find your partner fluffing the sheets tonight, beat a hasty retreat.

For the silencers, move quickly into the next aisle of the supermarket or library leaving a trail of pollution in your wake. People are likely to lay the blame on something that died, certainly not you.

In a lift, get out on the next floor leaving the other lift users to suffer. Dogs make very useful scapegoats. “Danger, suka lapha nja! (Get away you filthy dog).”

If animals aren’t close at hand, babies are also great to blame. Blame the pampers knowing fully well that Little Themba cannot possibly point you out in a parade.

Displacing the blame can also backfire.A very rich and respected woman held a tea party for her wealthy and influential friends. Evidently she ate more cucumber sandwiches than was good for her.

During one of those deadly silences that happen even at the best of parties, a colossal breaking of wind came from the hostess’ direction.

Never one to be easily embarrassed, she quickly said to her butler, “James, stop that immediately!”

The butler turned slowly and replied in his most superior voice, “Certainly madam, which way did it go?”

If anyone tells you that they don’t release any gases, they are either lying, they are aliens from outer space, or else you better get the heck out of there for they are about to explode.

 Lenox Mhlanga is a social commentator
 Twitter: @lenoxmhlanga