Sententia (sen-ten’-ti-a): One of several terms describing short, pithy sayings. Others include adage, apothegem, gnome, maxim, paroemia, and proverb.
Consider the booger. It isn’t a lobster. It isn’t Yorick’s moldy skull. But in a way the lowly booger has high standing in the universe of the nostril: “Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.” Substitute “boogers” for “stars” and you’ll see there is a universe of unseeable celestial promise stuck in your life-giving airway, tidying it up by a hearty sneeze or a carefully wielded pinky scooping out the booger and wiping it on your pant leg or skirt or sock. Or, you may be primly equipped with what is called a “hankie” made from soft cloth, and possibly, embroidered with your three initials. If you’re a man, you may have in your back pocket a large hankerchief, “chief” emphasizing the cloth’s masculinity and superiority to the “girlie” little hankie. In fact, in order to emphasize its manliness, you might call your handkerchief a “snot rag” even though you may use it to go booger hunting up your nose. Or, you may have a tissue up your sleeve if you are bereft of pockets.
Booger flicking is a sport in some parts of the world, especially in poorer countries that may only have boogers to play with. There may even be regional tournaments and passionate rivalries with “Booger Kings” and “Booger Queens” revered as regional and national champions. The boogers are specially cultivated in the competitors’ nostrils, aging like fine wine, and taking on their cherished aerodynamic form inside the nostril through a process of tantric sniffing and, outside the nose, by rolling the booger between the thumb and forefinger, and very lightly moisturizing it with canola oil. The booger is flicked by placing it on the tip of the index finger and forcefully dragging the thumb toward it to strike it and propel it away from the hand. According to the rules, each booger must be kept in the competitor’s nostril until five minutes before the “Flick Off.” Competitors sit in a circle around a five-foot diameter pit marked in rings like a bullseye. The highest scoring booger wins the round. Ties are resolved by a “Booger Flick-Off,” and boogers that land on other boogers void their participation in the “Flick Off.” In the US, the last known “Flick Off” was held in 1980 and was “won” by the professional sniveler Donald Sump from NYC, who was accused of cheating by sniveling on his booger, increasing its velocity, and knocking what would’ve been the winning booger off the board. His title was taken away after a 10-minute hearing.
Now we come to the dark side of boogers. There are the near-perverts who eat their boogers. First, there are the covert booger eaters— they may pretend they’re wiping their mouths with their backs of their hands or handkerchiefs, when in fact, they’re unloading dried boogers into their mouths. They may chew them quietly and surreptitiously, but if you are vigilant, you can observe movement in their throats when they swallow their nasal confections.
But the absolute worst is the public booger miner. They may sit in a bus station digging for booger treasure. Their pinky is their tool, with enough of a nail to act as a shovel. They shove their pinky into their nostril, twist it around, fill it up and pull it out. Now, the public booger eater holds up his pinky and looks at his find from many angles, until he can’t stand any more. He shoves his loaded pinky between his lips and into his mouth, where he may chew on his prize for a couple of seconds before he swallows it.
Erasmus said “Nothing human is alien to me.” Boogers are human, and they bind us together. Their presence is ubiquitous. When we look at each others’ noses we can see mirrored there citadels of common experience that house boogers that we can’t see, but can believe in due to a booger’s presence in our own nostrils.
So, as we began, consider the booger: a building block of our humanity, so disgustingly beautiful and picked for infinite reasons, spanning the hierarchies of value that give life to meaning, and meaning to life.
If your nose could speak, it might say: “I can’t pick myself.”
Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu)
Buy a print edition of The Daily Trope! The print edition is entitled The Book of Tropes and is available on Amazon for $9.99.