Friday, October 3, 2008


I've blatantly ripped off Mona's format for the Friday Word ("smell"). She listed a deeply evocative list of smells she loves, and I'm merely following in her footsteps. Good word!

* The smell of tomato plants being watered (I've heard - perhaps from Dancehall? - that it's the vines that make the smell, and not the tomatoes themselves)
* Cigarettes. I'm an ex-smoker, and will always love the smell, and always miss smoking. It's like phantom limb syndrome. What a glorious habit. I've sat next to people who were smoking just to get a whiff of that second-hand smoke.
* Bourbon. Good bourbon. Enough said.
* Mimeographs. This'll be lost on everyone under the age of 30 or so, but in the olden days, schools printed copies using a mimeograph machine, which produced an odd blue text and the most wonderful artificial chemical smell. I have such distinct memories of the teacher passing out copies, and every kid in the class taking a deep whiff of the paper the second it landed on their desk, because it smelled so good. Cheap thrills.
* Coffee. Maxwell House or fancy-pants Starbucks, it's all the same to me.
* Bacon. Mmmmmmmmm, bacon....
* Campfires. And the way the smoky smell stays in your clothes and your hair and your skin for days afterward. You smell it and remember sitting at the fire as the stars come out and the bats begin to swoop and the coyotes begin to howl.
* Cordite. It's what makes that smell in the air after a fireworks display, when everyone is walking home, dazzled and sleepy.
* The smell in the air just before a rain.
* Sage. Particularly after a rain. La petite Huque has planted lots of sage around the house, and the smell surrounds us like a comforting blanket every time it rains.


Eric Shonkwiler said...

I've heard mimeographs have a good smell. A graphic novel mentioned it in passing.

Cordite is a great word if you want to pretend you're an expert on writing about explosions or guns. Technical sounding word=instant credibility.

Willie Ziebell said...

Grraaah. Blogger ate my first comment.

Tomato plants: good one! I remember mimeographs. They were definitely going out of style, but through elementary school they were abundant. And they smelled good.

There is a word for the smell of rain: .

I would add:
Water from a garden hose. Hosewater, if you will.
Pencil shavings.
Tanning oil: an attractive smell, ideally paired with an attractive subject. :)
The Oregon coast.

Looking at Wikipedia, I can figure out the science behind smells. If someone were to say, "Ah, smell that fresh ocean air!" I could say "Yes, that's the dimethyl sulfide you're smelling; it's produced by phytoplankton." I wouldn't say that, though. It would kind of kill the moment.

Willie Ziebell said...

Um, the word for the smell of rain is petrichor; Blogger hates me today.

meno said...

For a brief, glorious moment in 3rd grade, i got to be the teacher's assistant. I loved being send to the mimeograph machine to make copies, and then hugging that warm, wonderful smelling pile of freshly copied pages to my chest as i hurried back to class.

paula said...

This was lovely.

I would add toddler or baby's hair to my list.

And roast chicken (all summer no roast chicken..then the fall..ah..the whole house smells great...) Not as great as bacon, but great in a different way, since bacon gets fried year round here.

Weed! I can't smoke that crap anymore but I love to smell it.

I love walking by a bar in the middle of the day when they open up the doors to mop and airate(sp?) and the stench of stale beer and smoke comes out the door...I know, that one is weird. I used to work in bars and so it just brings back being young.

How in the hell did you quit smoking? I've been hypnotised - didn't work... I quit at various times and then come back to it...right now, I really want to quit.

Hilary said...

Great list. Those mimeographs - the first thing the class would do when handed out a sheet was smell it. It made little difference what was on it - we HAD to smell it first. Great list, as is Paula's - except maybe the bar, and I'd add cats' fur to the baby hair.

Clowncar said...

Eric, I love the smell of cordite in the morning. Smells like...credibility.

Petrichor! Thanks for the new word, Willie. I gave you props on the blog today. And yeah, hosewater does have a great smell. Kinda metallic and rusty. At least out of our hose.

Meno, almost as cool as the smell is making the mimeos themselves; attaching the paper to the big metal cylander and then slowly cranking it around, and around, and around. Did the teacher let you do that too?

What excellent additions to the list Paula. Roast chicken. Weed (mmm....). And I almost put that stale bar smell on my list, but like you, I figured no one would understand.

Hillary, i wonder if there's something they smell these days totally below our radar? Dry erase board markers? Newly unwrapped mouse pads? It all sounds so sterile!

Irrelephant said...

A mimeo. CC, you rock out loud. I remember that giant, clunking machine, hiding out in a back room of the teacher's areas. You could hear ours from miles away it seemed, and those pale purpley-blue lettered pages it turned out. I remember getting sheets fresh, FRESH from that behemoth of copying and they felt...damp, somehow. I always wondered and could never figure out how water was getting involved in the paper printing process.

I guess looking back now it was alcohol or some bizarre, cancer-causing chemical that has since been banned for use everywhere but in Soviet Russia.

Thank you for the trip back down memory lane.

Mona Buonanotte said...

In high school business class we had to learn to make the mimeograph negatives, or whatever they were called. I totally rocked it, and sniffed so much of that printing fluid it's a wonder I have any brain cells left.

I'm an ex-smoker too...isn't second hand smoke just the best? It smells


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love all those smells *including* the mimeograph sniffing, but excluding the cigarettes.

Baking pastries
Baking turkey
A good pipe outside on a fall day
Good wine
Good aftershave/perfume
Clean laundry
Buttered popcorn
Clean babies/children
Fireplaces outside in the fall
Sharpie markers
During and after the rain


Scarlett & Viaggiatore