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Old 18 July 2009, 04:40 PM
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Spam & Cookies-mmm Spam & Cookies-mmm is offline
 
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Default Blowing smoke up one's ass

Quote:
Tobacco Smoke Enema (1750s-1810s)
The tobacco enema was used to infuse tobacco smoke into a patient's rectum for various medical purposes, primarily the resuscitation of drowning victims. A rectal tube inserted into the anus was connected to a fumigator and bellows that forced the smoke towards the rectum. The warmth of the smoke was thought to promote respiration, but doubts about the credibility of tobacco enemas led to the popular phrase "blow smokes up one's ass."
I have no doubts that such a medical device ever existed, but I question the origin of the phrase. Anyone ever heard of this?

(I hope the subject line isn't too NFBSK)
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Old 18 July 2009, 05:36 PM
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Wikipedia gives the same derivation and claims a book by Eric Burns, The Smoke of the Gods as the source.

But the book itself doesn't really say that this contraption led to the phrase. It says "To blow smoke up one's ass. Today it means to compliment in a crude and obvious manner; in the past it meant to cure in a manner even more crude."
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  #3  
Old 20 July 2009, 04:20 AM
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Hmm...and I always thought that the idiom was "to blow smoke out of one's ass".....
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Old 22 July 2009, 03:20 PM
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Icon202 Or sunshine up your skirt?

A popular phrase in my lexicon is "blowing sunshine up your skirt" which I take as giving false hope or a false impression.

BB "possibly a sexual connection?" &S
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Old 22 July 2009, 04:01 PM
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For how the idiom is used, I would have assumed the smoke was referring to magician's smoke used for obfuscation (as in "it's all done with smoke and mirrors") and "up my ass" was added just for cursing effect. Because every time I've heard it used, its basic meaning is lying to suggest a positive effect when the actual effect is likely to be negative (not to falsely compliment).

The story behind it sounds to me a little too pat (like "raining cats and dogs" having anything to do with animals living in the thatched roof, or "sleep tight" having anything to do with bed construction) to be true, especially when there are more logical amorphic possibilities.
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  #6  
Old 22 July 2009, 04:16 PM
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Is it possible that a tobacco enema did any good? I know there were tons of quack treatments and WAG experiments going on in medicine at the time, but since you can absorb something pretty quickly through rectal membranes, and a stimulant like nicotine might actually be effective in spedding up the heart rate of a drowning victim, it might have been effective. Not as good as CPR or epinephrine, or a defibrillator, but better than bloodletting, or holding them upside and shaking them to get the water out.
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Old 25 July 2009, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mags View Post
For how the idiom is used, I would have assumed the smoke was referring to magician's smoke used for obfuscation (as in "it's all done with smoke and mirrors") and "up my ass" was added just for cursing effect. Because every time I've heard it used, its basic meaning is lying to suggest a positive effect when the actual effect is likely to be negative (not to falsely compliment).
This is my thought exactly, as I've often also heard the idiom simply referred to as "blowing smoke". They mean exactly the same thing. Therefore, to blow smoke up one's ass would generally make the obfuscating substance disappear, and no effect would be reached. However, blowing smoke out of one's ass actually has the opposite effect.

A quick google search tells me that both uses are somewhat common. I prefer the "out" use, as it makes more sense (like idiom's make sense).
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Old 30 July 2009, 01:53 AM
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The email is also going around with this picture, supposedly of the tobacco enema device:

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Old 17 May 2010, 08:24 AM
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Cassell's Dictionary of Slang gives "to blow smoke" as the older form, mid-19th Century or later. According to that, "blow smoke up someone's ass, to" dates from the 1950s and is an intensifier of the older phrase.

Of course with slang phrases like that, it's always hard to know if they were used but just not written down, but it seems there's no evidence to link the phrase to this device, and that the phrase itself is at least a century too late for the origins given.
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Old 19 July 2012, 03:49 PM
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funny pictures history - You're Uh... You're Doing it Wrong

At least the machine photo had a fan to work with, instead of manually doing it.
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Old 19 July 2012, 04:57 PM
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There was a QI episode featuring this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pgsl8VEZ5E
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  #12  
Old 19 July 2012, 05:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TrishDaDish View Post
At least the machine photo had a fan to work with, instead of manually doing it.
It reminds me of a joke about making a thirsty camel drink...

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