In Defense Of Spitting

In America, spitting is frowned upon, unless you are in the dentist’s chair and have just been handed a cup of mouthwash or are participating in a watermelon-eating contest.  My grandmother called spitting a “filthy habit.”  It is flatly contrary to the rules of etiquette and the norms of polite society.  Still, people keep doing it.  Earlier this year, for example, Tiger Woods was ripped by commentators and viewers, and then fined, for spitting on the golf course, and he later apologized for his “inconsiderate” behavior.

I think people keep spitting because our mouths are a very effective spit-ejection device, and spitting actually feels pretty good.  Your mouth and tongue taste foul and rank and then, suddenly, they don’t anymore.  In some cultures, spitting is much more common, and in others spitting is considered to be a way to ward off the “Evil Eye” and evil spirits.  (Apparently evil spirits have very tender sensibilities about the act of returning moisture to the environment.)  There is an innate, childlike pleasure in spitting, too.  You feel the exquisite, gathering heaviness of the saliva swirling on your tongue before you are ready to launch.  You can go for distance or work on accuracy.  And you know it’s naughty, bad boy behavior — which just makes it a bit more fun.

I’m not suggesting that people should spit on or at each other, or go around spitting on public streets as a matter of routine.  I’m just saying that, in the right place and at the right time, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a good spit.

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