To Sniff or Not to Sniff? That is the Question.

Who are you calling smelly?

WordPress is running one of its weekly Writing Challenges at the moment. This one is on sound. Sound in your writing. Now this is very interesting and I’ve been giving it some thought with a view to responding, but today I met something else you might like to consider. How about smell?

Do you use smells in your writing?

A trip outside around here can certainly sometimes be smelly and I don’t just mean him on the right. At various times of year, we’re affected by what the farmers are up to. Muck spreading, for instance. Some is all right, some is vile and some of the stuff they put on our fields can make your throat close up. I have trouble with oil-seed rape too, which smells like bad margarine. Not all of the smells are bad. Consider driving through fields of fresh-cut grass with the windows down. I don’t have a problem inhaling that.

And how about people? Yes, people quite often smell, not just large brown cows, people too can sometimes have an odour about them which is not altogether pleasant. Anyone can get a bit niffy from time to time. Hot day, long working hours, having to wear a suit and be smart when really we’d prefer to be slumming about in shorts and a T – but most of us wash, use deodorants (and some of those are pretty noxious too!) and most of us don’t smell much at all and if we do, it isn’t for long. B.O. though – that’s not pleasant. I remember working in London when end-of-day trips on underground trains were a nightmare. I’m quite short. Strap hanging in a crowded train often brought me into rather closer proximity with a smelly armpit than I would have liked.

And B.O. is not the worst thing. I don’t like it when people smell like old biscuits. Yes, they can smell like biscuits and it is not pleasant. That biscuit aroma is of unwashed clothes as well as unwashed body. Not a cookie you would care to eat. I used to know a lovely old man, who was one bail short of the cricket stumps, who smelled so strongly of biscuits, it was difficult to breathe. (No, not Robert – my post https://patwoodblogging.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/a-character/ will tell you about him if you’re interested). Yes, he was a lovely man, in spite of the stench, and fascinating to talk to, if you could manage to stand there long enough without breathing.

But he was easier than a couple of women I know who stink like old ash trays. Yes, they smoke, but I know a few people who do that and don’t smell as though they’ve been kippered. Actually, I think I prefer the biscuit pong.

There are nice smells of course. Handkerchiefs scented with lavender. The fragrance of roses, fancy modern perfumes in their fancy modern bottles, freshly bathed babies and so on, but are they as evocative as a shoe redolent of cow dung or a malodorous body next to you on the bus? And the smells of everyday objects like vegetables: onions, obviously, rotten cabbage, cooking cauliflower, ripe pineapple.

There are some gorgeous descriptive words that go with smells, especially horrible ones. Reeking, putrid, humming, buzzing, rank. Aren’t they just, well, delicious?

And what was the foetid offering I had to endure this morning that inspired this post? Biscuits. Definitely biscuits.

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20 responses to “To Sniff or Not to Sniff? That is the Question.

  1. I am totally with you on the biscuit smell! LOL!

  2. Certainly not Oreos.
    You aren’t talking about Oreos, are you?
    I’m bringing them to our shed-spread anyway…

    • No, nothing that scrumptious, or that new. Or even within their sell-by date.
      You would not want to eat these biscuits.
      And where are you? The wine will be getting warm…

      • Where am I? Stuck in a tail-back…literally…cows on the road. Don’t worry about the wine…drink mine while you wait…I’ll eat your share of biscuits…the good ones, of course…not the stale! I am so smiling here…

        • Er – cows? Oh, cows – worry not. Wine? Sorry, hic, wine gone. Party over. Hic. Did I say the wine was finisshed? Well, it is.
          Till nxt time. Shh. Hic. Lovely biscuits, by ‘way.
          Lovely. Lovely to see you. Zzzz….

  3. Your photo certainly evoked a strong putrid smell for me. I grew up around dairy and hog farms. In fact, we had a hog farm adjacent to our school. I enjoy my beef and pork, but have no appreciation for some of the smells of a farm. 🙂

    • At least it connected for you! I love pigs, when they’re kept well, in the open, and don’t smell too bad. But lived near an intensive pig farm for four years and loathed the stench from there. 🙂
      And I have too good a nose, I think. I do tend to pick up on smells rather too well!

  4. I never really got to thinking about smells until I decided to do advice pieces on my blog about writing the seasons. If you care to read them:

    Spring
    Summer

    I was determined to cover all of the senses and was surprised at the results. We really do take smell and taste for granted when writing fiction and when creating a specific setting, maybe we should think about it more.

    • I think my nose must be a bit too efficient sometimes, it picks up horrible smells too easily! And taste is a bit too allied to smell for comfort sometimes.
      I will certainly take a look at your posts.
      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

  5. What does blogging smell like? cold coffee and peanut butter cookies.

  6. Hi Pat. I’m coming over from IWSG. Smells? I grew up on a farm with chickens, cows and horses. Consequently, my dad smelled like manure. My DH thinks it’s weird that I actually like the smell of manure. But when they used to burn tires, yuck, that’s got to be the worse smell possible. Even as a kid I had to wonder what that disgusting smell was doing to our environment.

    Happy blogging, Pat.

    • Thank you, and to you to. And that you for stopping by. Some manure smells aren’t bad, as long as they’re not too close. Actually, I think the worst one they use around here is fish manure. Urgh!

  7. I think I liked it the way Zooey Deschanel described it in Surf’s Up while playing the character Lani: You know how some stinks stink and other stinks smell good? — So true. Some really do stink. It’s hard to think that anyone would think bathing in a couple quarts of perfume would actually make them smell good. Too often people around here do that with some of the most expensive (rank-scented) perfumes and colognes available.

    It has tempted me to go play with skunks and give those who wear the rank-scented perfumes a funky look when they comment on my stink. — Their scent smells just as bad at times, whether they realize it or not.

    • There is a particular body spray, used by teenagers especially, which is absolutely vile.
      Popping into the ladies loo in a department store, one is assailed by it and often contaminated by it as it is wafted about liberally.
      I’m a woman, I like perfume, but I like subtlety too. I don’t bathe in it. And that body spray? They’d be better off with a bit of honest BO.

  8. Pingback: It’s ALL about the smell! | MoreThanMelts

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