Tuesday, January 4, 2011

By Philip Milano


Why do men need to spit so much in public? -- Anne, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.
What is it with guys and spitting? -- Cheryl, New Haven, Conn.


-- It's a macho thing, pure and simple. -- Aloysius, 37, male, Atlanta

-- I, too, have noticed this a lot. Just yesterday I was stopped at a light, and the man in front of me opened his door to let one go. I wish they would stop. Why can't they just use a restroom? -- Amy, 29, Portland, Ore.

-- And there's always the danger of it hitting someone. I was walking out of school one day, and this guy suddenly spat to one side. I was standing right there and had to go the rest of the way home with it on my jacket. All the way I was thinking, ew, ew, ew. -- H., 16, female, United Kingdom

-- Probably it is a subconscious urge to mark one's territory. -- Augustine, 40, male, Columbia, S.C.

-- It's considered "unladylike" to hock a big loogie while walking down the street. I believe cultural mores tell us it's OK for men to do it, but not women. -- Marc, 24, Morgantown, W.Va.

-- I've spit into the street when there was nobody around -- and no Kleenex. -- Shirley, 50, Missouri


Our trajectory of research had hit a snag, and we didn't expectorate that Emily Post's great-grandson would call back, but that was before we learned he'd devoted an entire section of his etiquette book "Essential Manners for Men" to this issue.

"What's humorous is that when I submitted that part to my editor, she said, 'Why on earth do you need a section on spitting?' She was aghast -- couldn't believe there's even any discussion," said Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute.

"Then she came back and said she had to eat her words. She'd shown her husband, and he gave her a half-hour harangue about when spitting is OK and when it's not."

Turns out there are places and times for it. The athletic field, for one, or when you need to clear your throat from a cold or something and have no alternative.

"You probably don't want to land it in front of the girl you're walking with, but if you can find a place that's unobtrusive to others, it seems OK," Post said.

Generally, in mixed company, swallow your enthusiasm, advised Post, who wonders whether men let fly as a result of "field of combat" historical indoctrination.

"Possibly they were involved in these things where it was the male-only bastion area (in battle or athletics), and all of a sudden, those gross forms were accepted." Now it's evolved into unconscious ignorance.

"I don't think it's rebellion; they just don't think how it will affect people," he said.

And if you're a heavy-hitter when it comes to spitting, Post had some advice:

"Don't go to Singapore. It's against the law."

Continue the cross-cultural dialogue at www.yforum.com, or mail questions and replies to Phillip Milano, The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231.

This column was originally printed in the January 2 - January 15, 2011 edition.


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