Thursday, 30 January 2014

Carminative - Total Eclipse of the Fart


Adjective & noun. Late Middle English.
[Old & modern French carminatif, -ive or medieval Latin carminat past participial stem of carminare heal by incantation,
from Latin carmen, -min-: see CHARM noun, -ATIVE.]

MEDICINE. (A medicine) having the property of relieving flatulence.

Carminative - is there a more phonetically euphemistic word in the English language? Just as one's mind is enveloped in the smooth and inviting notions of carmen, calming and charm, the crude definition slaps us rudely across the face, just as might the carminative relief of the eponymous flatus. Carminative is a tragic, bathetic word. It was made to be beautiful, formed to be winsome, delicately moulded to bring a smile to the hardest lips and a sigh from coldest heart. But alas, it was not to be, and forever this delicately shaped word will be associated with fart medicine.

(Solo) yoga is, apparently, an excellent carminative
(photo by Peter Gerdes)
If it so happens that you've arrived on this page looking for relief from, let's say, some kind of congenital fart defect, do not fret or shift uncomfortably in your seat - there is no judgement here. Regardless of how many naff American comedies feel the necessity to squeeze a fart gag into the script just because their writers were too talentless to think of anything better to include, or how many congregated male youths think it's the funniest, cleverest thing in the world to shout "Hey guys! Get this!" before loudly releasing their flatus to an enraptured audience as if they were the first person to publicly break wind in the history of mankind, the fact remains that farting is just not funny. It's a natural and tragic biological process that afflicts all humans (yes, even the Queen), serving no other purpose than to degrade human dignity, give groups of mindless male buffoons something to entertain themselves with, and to pluck delicate, sensitive, precious words like carminative from our tongues.

Let it R.I.P

Did you arrive here looking for advice on carminatives?

Do you too rue the loss of such a beautiful word?

Do please break cover, not wind, and comment in the box below.


  1. I love the idea of healing wind by incantation, but isn't the source of carminative to do with carding wool? "The object of carminatives is to expel wind, but the theory was that they dilute and relax the gross humours from whence the wind arises, combing them out like knots in wool." Hensleigh Wedgwood, "A Dictionary of English Etymology" 1859-65.
    But then perhaps Hensleigh was a nincompoop.

    1. "Long-winded carminative incantations" - I rather like that idea too.

      Regarding the etymology, Sally, I'll be honest in that I didn't spend too long rooting about for this one and just took the OED at its word. Now that you've mentioned it, my Chambers dictionary says its from Latin 'carminare' - to card, comb out. The online OED, however, resolutely stands by the incantation angle.

    2. Hahahaha!
      "Total eclipse of the fart" made my day!!

      I recently came across an obsolete meaning for 'fizzle' - to 'break wind' without noise.
      Fizzles are deadly! :)

    3. "Silent but violent" is what we said around our parts ...

  2. I'm confident, at 10:38 , that now matter how much rubbish today throws at me, 'total eclipse of the fart' will make it all worthwhile. Thank you Edward.


    1. As long as it's not because you found it funny. I think I made it quite clear in this post that farting isn't funny.

      Any humour gleaned from this post's tagline can only be of the ironic, oh-there's-an-example-of-how-unfunny-farting-is variety.

  3. (I used to suffer from flatulence but that's all behind me now)


  4. ...and don't forget all the movies -

    John with the wind.

    The spy who repulsed me.

    Smelly Maguire.

    Pffft, I love you.....

    -c, unashamedly buffoonous.

    1. ... farting isn't funny!

      OK ... well ... the "Pffft, I love you" made me laugh ... a bit ... but only ironically ...

  5. My Dad used to equate that word with the "other" "F-Bomb". He got over that quick when my siblings and I grew up. We even gave him a cap with "Old Fart" on it, along with bumper stickers, etc. LOL I miss my Dad--thank you for prompting these funny memories.

    1. 'Fart' is actually a banned word in my house, too - maybe the day that my little girl buys me an 'Old Fart' hat isn't as far away as I like to think : o )