The word 'critical" has three meanings which are dangerous, important, and disapproving. The purpose of this blog is to examine important or over-looked cultural, political, artistic, or historical issues of our time. Also, this blog is intended to be educational.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
The Origins Of Common Phrases: Blow It Out Your Ass
Blow It Out Your Ass (painting)
it out your ass is used as an expression of anger or disrespect toward another
When someone says "blowing it
out your ass" today, it is a figure of speech that means that one person
is complimenting another, insincerely most of the time, in order to inflate the
ego of the individual being flattered.
Back in the late 1700's, however,
doctors literally blew smoke up people's rectums. Believe it or not, it was a
general mainstream medical procedure used to, among many other things,
resuscitate people who were otherwise presumed dead. In fact, it was such a
commonly used resuscitation method for drowning victims particularly, that the
equipment used in this procedure was hung alongside certain major waterways,
such as along the River Thames (equipment courtesy of the Royal Humane
Society). People frequenting waterways were expected to know the location of
this equipment similar to modern times concerning the location of defibrillators.
Smoke was blown up the rectum by
inserting a tube. This tube was connected to a fumigator and a bellows which
when compressed forced smoke into the rectum. Sometimes a more direct route to
the lungs was taken by forcing the smoke into the nose and mouth, but most
physicians felt the rectal method was more effective. The nicotine in the
tobacco was thought to stimulate the heart to beat stronger and faster, thus
encouraging respiration. The smoke was also thought to warm the victim and dry
out the person's insides, removing excessive moisture.
So how did this all get started? The
Native Americans were known to have used tobacco in a variety of ways,
including treating various medical ailments, and the European doctors soon
picked up on this and began advocating it for treatments for everything from
headaches to cancer.
In 1745, Richard Mead was among the
first known Westerners to suggest that administering tobacco via an enema was
an effective way to resuscitate drowning victims.
By 1774, Doctors William Hawes and
Thomas Cogan, who practiced medicine in London,formed The Institution
for Affording Immediate Relief to Persons Apparently Dead From Drowning.
This group later became the Royal Humane Society. Back in the 18th century,
the society promoted the resuscitation of drowning people by paying four
guineas (about £450 today by purchasing power, or $756) to anyone who was able
to successfully revive a drowning victim.
Volunteers within the society soon
began using the latest and greatest method of reviving such half-drowned
individuals, via tobacco smoke enemas. Artificial respiration was used if the
tobacco enema did not successfully revive them. In order that people could
easily remember what to do in these cases, in 1774 Dr. Houlston published a
helpful little rhyme:
(enema), breathe and bleed.
Keep warm and rub till you succeed.
And spare no pains for what you do;
May one day be repaid to you.
The practice of using tobacco smoke
enemas on drowning victims quickly spread as a popular way to introduce tobacco
into the body to treat an array of other medical conditions including:
headaches, hernias, respiratory ailments and abdominal cramps, among many other
things. Tobacco enemas were even used to treat typhoid fever and during cholera
outbreaks when patients were in the final stages of the illnesses.
In their most rudimentary form,
tobacco smoke enemas were not always administered with the aide of bellows.
Originally, the smoke was blown up the victim's rectum with whatever was handy,
such as a smoking pipe. Of course, such close contact wasn't ideal and if the
rescuer accidentally inhaled instead of blew, let's just say things that one
should not aspirate could be inhaled. If the person jerked around, mouth
contact was also a risk, even more risky considering the person being
administered too was sometimes diseased.
In fact, one of the earliest documented references of using such a tobacco enema to
resuscitate someone came from someone using a smoking pipe in 1746. In this
case, the man's wife had nearly drowned and was unconscious. It was suggested
that an emergency tobacco enema might revive her, at which point the husband of
the woman took a pipe filled with burning tobacco, shoved the stem into his
wife's rectum and then covered the other end of the pipe with his mouth and
blew. As one would imagine, hot embers of tobacco being blown up her rectum had
the intended effect and she was, indeed, revived.
This practice quickly spread,
reaching its peak in the early 20th century before, in 1811, English scientist
Ben Brodie via animal testing discovered that nicotine was toxic to the cardiac
system. Over the next several decades, the popularity of literally "blowing
smoke up someone's ass" gradually became a thing of the past.
Figuratively, though, this practice is still alive and well.
Besides smoke enemas, another
relatively popular way to administer tobacco to the body was via a water
mixture enema. In one account, this included administering a liquid tobacco
enema, along with a chicken broth enema to a patient.
There are records of both Native
Americans, such as the Catawba, and Europeans using tobacco smoke enemas to
treat constipated horses.
Turpentine has been used medicinally
since ancient times, mainly in topical home remedies, although it was sometimes
used internally. Topically it has been used to treat abrasions, hemorrhoids and
to treat lice infestations. When mixed with animal fat, it has been used as a
chest rub or inhaler.
Bloodletting was used in mainstream
medicine up until the late 19th century in some parts of the world. It was the
most common medical procedure for almost 2000 years. Bloodletting is the
withdrawal of often small quantities of blood from a patient to cure or prevent
illness or disease. In the overwhelming majority of cases, bloodletting was
historically harmful to patients, though because of loss of blood could in some
cases temporarily make them feel euphoric, and, thus, better.
Trepanning involved boring a small
hole into the skull to expose the dura mater (the outer membrane of the brain).
This practice was believed to alleviate pressure and to treat health problems
localized within the head. It was thought to cure epilepsy, migraines, and
mental disorders and was a common "fix" for physical problems such as
skull fractures. Needless to say, such internal exposure to airborne germs
would often be fatal.
Speed was critical in an era before
widespread anesthesia. Top surgeons like Robert Liston could amputate a limb in
under a minute. In 1847, Liston was even recorded as having removed a 45 pound
scrotal tumor in four minutes flat.