11 Literary Fart Jokes

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Bathroom humor has a proud literary tradition, with breaking wind having been a particularly popular scatological topic for millennia. Throughout history, the chance to make an occasional fart joke has often proven irresistible, even to such influential authors as Aristophanes, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain. Here are 11 references to uproarious cheese cutting made by some of the most esteemed writers of all time. 

1. The First Joke Ever Recorded (1900 BC)

Who says girls don’t fart? According to University of Wolverhampton professor Paul McDonald, this ancient Sumerian one-liner is the oldest known joke in recorded history: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

2. Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno (14th Century CE)

This 14th-century masterpiece chronicles a fictional journey purportedly made by Dante himself through the circles of hell. At one point at the close of chapter XXI, he witnesses a demon mobilizing his troops by using “his ass as a trumpet.”

3. William Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors (1594)

In Act 3, the bard writes “A man may break a word with you, sir; and words are but wind; Ay, and break it in your face, so he break it not behind.” (According to some, Shakespearean fart jokes are more common than one might expect.)

4. Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (14th Century CE)

While in the company of a parish clerk named Absalom in one verse, Nicholas, an impoverished student, inadvertently “let fly a fart as loud as it had been a thunder-clap, and well nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap.”

5. Jonathan Swift’s "The Benefit of Farting" (1722)

In this notorious essay, the author of Gulliver’s Travels proves to be quite the flatulence connoisseur, writing “I take it there are five or six different species of fart.” These are “the sonorous and full-toned or rousing fart,” “the double fart,” “the soft fizzing fart,” “the wet fart,” and “the sullen wind-bound fart.” (You can read the full pamphlet here.) 

6. Mark Twain’s 1601 (1880)

Never one to shy away from irreverent humor, Samuel Clemens’ one-act show is set during a private gathering of Queen Elizabeth’s court wherein somebody unexpectedly rips one, prompting the Queen to ask about its source. Lady Alice (a woman in attendance) quickly declares “Nay tis not I [who has] brought forth this rich o’emastering [sic] fog, this fragrant gloom, so pray you seek ye further.”

7. Aristophanes’ The Clouds (423 BCE)

At one point in the play, a simple-minded character named Strepsiades gives Socrates (yes, that Socrates) a bit too much information about his bowel movements: “I get colic, then the stew sets to rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific noise. ”

8. James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922)

The novel’s protagonist, advertising canvasser Leopold Bloom, is described in a particularly unflattering scene as sitting “asquat the cuckstool… seated calm above his own rising smell.”

9. 1001 Arabian Night’s Tales (1709)

In "The Tale of Abu Hassan," the title character flees his homeland out of raw embarrassment after farting at his own wedding. To hear an excellent reading of the narrative (complete with unnervingly-realistic sound effects), check this out:

10. John Aubrey’s Brief Lives (17th Century CE)

Abu Hassan wasn’t the only literary figure to embark on a lengthy exodus after a humiliating spurt of flatulence. In this semi-biographical text, Aubrey relays the following story about the seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604): “This Earl… [bowing] to Queen Elizabeth, happened to let a fart, at which he was so abashed and ashamed  that he went to travel for seven years. On his return the Queen welcomed him home and said ‘My Lord, I had forgotten the fart.’”

11. J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye (1951)

Listening contemptuously to a “phony” minister’s self-aggrandizing sermon, Holden Caulfield’s scorn is temporarily interrupted when “this guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in the chapel and all, but it was also quite amusing. Old Marsalla. He damn near blew the roof off.”

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September 11, 2013 - 3:11pm
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