A case of the vapors?

You know that dealie where a lady suddenly swoons, fans herself, and says “Oh, I have a case of the vapors!”? Well, this woman told my mother it meant you had farted.

I always thought it was sort of a catch-all, antiquated phrase that harkened back to tight corsets, too much heat, and perhaps even the “evil humours”.

Who’s right?

Actually, you’re not that far off the mark in either case.

According to Merriam-Webster, vapors is defined as:

This, along with fainting couches, gave women the excuse to loosen her corset and relax for a bit.


I’m pretty sure it was restricted to those “female” problems. That’s what “hysterical” used to mean (same root as “hysterectomy”)

That darn womb is the source of many evils :).

The Maestro did a column on this, methinks. His conclusions:

  1. There was a “cult of female invalidity” that held it was beautiful and graceful for women to drop like flies.

  2. Women at the time loved to create a scene by fainting at the right moment.

  3. What with corsets, stays, bleeding, quack medicines, and the like, it’s a wonder the women could stay upright at all.

I fully respect Cecils take on 99.9% of all matters, but occasionally you have to take it one step higher to get the truth. That’s right, folks. The supreme being, Biz Markie.

mouthbreather, I couldn’t get that link to work. I gather it was song lyrics?

matt mcl, I read the Maestro’s column. I was well aware of the whole fainting “oh I’m a delicate flower” thing. I was going for the scatalogical angle here. Did ladies also say that when they’d just cut the cheese?