A Common Misconception

A Common Misconception

Today I’d like to discuss a misconception that adversely affects the lives of many people, especially young people. It’s a widely held belief that simply holds no truth to it. The belief?

That he who smelt it, dealt it.

The “smelt it, dealt it” (SIDI) principle has been around for centuries. It originated, as many things did, in 6th-century China. In that time and place, fireworks were used for the most prestigious of ceremonies, and if something went array, the firework operators were often beheaded. The first person to smell the exhaust of a launched firework was the operator himself, that is, the “dealer” of the firework. When blame needed to be placed, fingers were pointed at he who first smelt, and thus dealt, the off-kilter firework.

The phrase came to be associated with a self-induced odor only as recently as the Industrial Revolution in 19th-century England; specifically, London. To break up the monotony of 14-hour days at the factory, workers would congregate in the back lot to play cribbage, a popular card game of the time. To decide who would have the advantage of dealing first, the men would point their bottoms onto the same object and flatulate concurrently. They would then turn to smell the confluence of odor, and the last man standing would be the dealer. Thus, he who was able to smell it gained the privilege of dealing.

The phrase has evolved into a blame game on school buses and at Bible studies everywhere. The first child, he who is blessed and cursed with the best sense of smell, to detect a foul odor, is accused of being the originator (“dealer”) of said odor. He is ridiculed and shamed for alerting his peers to the dangerous gas when he should be rewarded and thanked. The smellers of this world are persecuted for their gift and are entangled in a web of deception geared toward preventing the true culprit from being revealed.

The lies stop here.

He who smelt it most likely did not, in fact, deal it. A 2007 study (Hermann et al.) showed that 14% of all smellers are innocent. Rather, he who dealt it, smelt it, and either remained silent (47%) or pointed the finger at he who smelt it (36%). 3% remained inconclusive.

Smellers of the world, unite! If we are guilty of one thing, it’s of not announcing our abilities before we are accused. Some suggestions for getting the word out:

  • Whenever you walk into a room or enter a group discussion, loudly proclaim, “I have an excellent sense of smell, and will be informing all of you if I smell a fart.”
  • Whenever you tell someone who is not aware of your nasal capacity that you have detected a flatuate, present a notarized statement that legally clears your name of any accusations.
  • Wear a shirt that reads, “I smelt it, but he dealt it,” with an arrow pointing to the person next to you.

No person is innocent of claiming the smelt it, dealt it clause out of desperation or desire for closure. We must admit to ourselves that simply knowing who dealt it doesn’t make the situation any better. We suffer together. But every time we point the finger at the smeller, we discourage that person from alerting us to similar situations in the future. I fear the day that the smellers remain silent as everyone chokes in a haze of shame and flatuate.

Give the smellers a chance to thrive. A chance to save us all.

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