Keep that phlegm to yourself

AIMIE CRONIN
Last updated 08:00 02/08/2014

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OPINION: It's been reported that Patti Smith, AKA the Godmother of Punk, would spit on fans who would question her presence in the 70s punk rock scene.

''Drunks yelled, 'Go back to the kitchen, bitch.' So I'd just spit on the stage,'' she told the New York Post. ''I was a good spitter. That stopped them. I was nicknamed 'the keeper of the phlegm'."

Spitting is an excellent way of conveying disdain. Not that I'm suggesting you do it. Spitting, with disdain, is something you get to do a couple of times only in a lifetime - so choose wisely and make sure the occasion is utterly spitworthy. 

Some cultures spit more than others. I'm personally not a fan of the casual spit. Like, hey, I've got a buildup of saliva in my mouth, I'm just going to get rid of it in the grossest possible way. 

Some people are expert spitters. They make this little pttt sound and it comes out in a well-formed wad. The execution is quite remarkable, but that doesn't make it OK. Nor does spitting in a sporting sense.  

In 2009, The Guardian reported that footballers had been told to quit spitting due to the swine flu outbreak. The Health Protection Agency released a statement:"Spitting is disgusting at all times. It's unhygienic and unhealthy, particularly if you spit close to other people. Footballers, like the rest of us, wouldn't spit indoors, so they shouldn't do it on the football pitch. If they are spitting near other people, it could certainly increase the risk of passing on infections. Certainly, spitting is a nasty habit that should be discouraged - and it should be discouraged by the clubs.''

Patti Smith may have been keeper of the phlegm, but the rest of us should keep the phlegm to ourselves. At all times.

What of sniffing, the poor cousin to the outrageous spit? It can be intensely annoying to be in close proximity to a sniffer, but in sniffing's defence, it is trying to keep the mucus in, not let it out.

Sniffers need to be handled with care. Often they are sniffing due to sickness. Sympathise with them and offer a tissue and that should take care of that. 

While we're on the topic: Hoiking should never take place unless the hoiker is in complete isolation (i.e. desert island) and loud nose blowing should take place in private also. Not in the office. Take it outside.  

Got a suggestion for the Modern Manners team? Email features editor Deborah Sloan on deborah.sloan@waikatotimes.co.nz or write to her c/o The Waikato Times, Private Bag 3086, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3240.

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