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Old 05-16-2001, 10:34 AM
VGGAlan VGGAlan is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 11
This is something I've been wondering about since I was a kid. In Looney Tunes and other older cartoons (and some silent shorts I've seen) Irish men are usually depicted holding long white pipes that they smoke while holding them upside down. That is, the part with the hole where the tobacco sits is pointing down towards the ground.

What's the deal with that? According to my mom, this odd habit was real. Her theory is that back when matches were expensive, you couldn't waste them on relighting a pipe. So, in a rainstorm, you turned the pipe upside down. And, since it's generally always raining in Ireland, they just kept doing it that way.

Now I know Ireland is wet and all, but wouldn't the high likelihood of having burning tobacco falling out onto your lower extremities justify the purchase of a couple of extra matches? Is the upside-down pipe a symbol for something? Some kind of leftover "those Irish are so dumb" racist reference? Or is mom (eek) right?
Old 05-16-2001, 11:28 AM
TomH TomH is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: London, UK
Posts: 1,335
Two reasons for smoking a pipe upside down:

1. As your mother suggested, to stop it going out in the rain. Not so much a result of the high cost of matches but an annoyance. If you pack the tobacco tightly enough, it doesn't fall out, just like the tobacco doesn't fall out of a cigarette when you point the open end downwards.

2. At night, to stop the glow showing. The same reason you might cup a cigarette in your hand rather than holding it between two fingers. AFAIK, this is a military habit adopted to prevent an approaching officer from seeing that you are smoking on duty (or presumably, in time of war, to stop it betraying your position to the enemy).

However, I suspect you're right about the old racist stereotype.
Old 05-17-2001, 05:25 AM
The Mick The Mick is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 138
no doubt a stereotype, but also(as previously suggested) probably rooted in fact.

I wouldn't know, though. I don't smoke.


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