Excess Gas

Hooting Yard reader Richard Carter has a letter published in the latest edition of the London Review Of Books. I take the liberty of reproducing it here for your edification and instruction. Our resident anagrammatist R. (who is not Richard, by the way) should find it of particular interest:

Steven Shapin writes that Darwin’s uncontrollable retching and farting seriously limited his public life (LRB, 30 June). Some years ago, to my delight, I worked out that the great man’s full name, Charles Robert Darwin, is an anagram of ‘rectal winds abhorrer’. Unfortunately for my anagram, the meanings of words, like species, can evolve. On the rare occasions that Darwin mentioned his problems to friends, he always used the word ‘flatulence’. Nowadays, we think of flatulence as being synonymous with farting, but in Darwin’s day it meant (as it technically still does) an accumulation of gases in the alimentary canal. While I’m sure that Darwin must have vented his excess gas one way or the other, there’s no reason to believe that his farts were uncontrollable.

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