Peter Chianca: America needs a grosser national product

Peter Chianca

Lately I’ve had this nagging feeling, like there’s something I should be doing that I’ve overlooked. Then finally the other day it hit me: I’ve been forgetting to engage in public grossness. How, I don’t know — that’s like forgetting to put on pants.

I realized this when I saw a recent study on grossness out of the Science Museum in London. The study suggests thousands upon thousands of people are spending large portions of their days involved in the excavation and/or expulsion of certain bodily elements. And this is not just in the privacy of their own homes, as a hobby — it’s part of their everyday lives, like going to work or giving other motorists the finger.

What I find most interesting about this study is that it comes out of England, where the people seem so refined. Take that royal family — sometimes I wonder if Prince Charles even possesses orifices that could become the source of public offensiveness. Come to think of it, that would explain his facial expressions.

Despite this, though, the study shows that more than a third of the U.K. population is engaging in search-and-rescue missions within their own nasal cavities at least five times a day. And at least a third of those people are, shall we say, recycling that material, which should make the British Ecological Society happy but leaves the rest of us wanting to skip our fish and chips for at least a week.

The study also showed that 34 percent of people are quite comfortable with burping loudly in public, while a similar number are at ease with blatantly expelling another form of bodily gas. Sadly, the study failed to note how many people follow either of those activities by yelling at the top of their lungs, “Must be a barge coming through!”

After reading these results, I couldn’t help but wonder what I’ve been doing wrong. It would take me weeks of practice to even come close to catching up with these people, and even then I think I’d be too exhausted to really nail these activities with gusto. Sure, I could just go through the motions, but where’s the satisfaction in that?

But of even more concern is the idea that Americans in general may be lacking in the public grossness department. After all, this is the country that sacrificed the blood of many a patriot so that our Founding Fathers could be sure that, someday, Mel Brooks would be allowed to make movies starring flatulent cowboys.

Apparently, though, Mel’s cowboys had nothing on the residents of Northern Ireland, which the survey said has the most aggressive practitioners of the aforementioned activities, in some cases approaching half the population. And yet you never hear U2 singing a song about that. Curious.

Regardless, I know I’m only one man, but I plan to do my part to bolster America’s public grossness quotient, starting immediately. In fact, give me a moment … . There, I feel better already. Although the person waiting to see me has backed slowly away from my office, like a hiker who just spotted a rattlesnake.

Well, I say too bad. Some may object, but I’m sure the London Science Museum would approve — particularly the spokeswoman who told the Ananova news service that “Overall, we are all pretty gross. … Really, we should never be embarrassed about our bodies.”

I couldn’t agree more. And please, somebody tell Prince Charles before he explodes.

CNC Managing Editor Peter Chianca is on hiatus until September; this column first appeared in 2002. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”