View Full Version : Origin of Southern phrase

05-24-2002, 04:02 PM
I had heard that the Southern phrase, "I've got the vapors!" is just a clever way for those charming southern ladies to pass gas and then have a great excuse to leave the room and get some fresh air.

I can't find a corroboration of this. Can anyone help me out?

05-24-2002, 05:12 PM
I think the expression was usually understood to mean the definition that my Merriam Webster gives it. Unfortunately, you have to go through all the more modern meanings before you get to:

a depressed or hysterical nervous condition

05-25-2002, 12:05 PM
It referred to feeling faint. Back in the days of tight, wasp-waisted corsets, women literally couldn't get enough air. Swooning under emotional stress was common in those days.

05-25-2002, 01:16 PM
That's actually a common misconception about corsets. A properly fitted, properly laced corset does not constrict breathing and is, in my experience, far more comfortable than most bras. Women swooned under emotional stress because they were expected to be delicate, frail creatures (at least the middle- and upper-class ones; the working class just got on with it).

As far as "the vapors" goes, I've heard two explanations: the flautulence one and that it was an excuse to leave the room to use the facilities, as Victorian women didn't announce, "'Scuse me, I've gotta pee." <g>

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
05-29-2002, 08:50 AM
OED lists "vapor" or "vapour" as meaning various acts of unusual behavior, none having to do with flatulence.

However, it's too much to type here, and it is silent on the exact etymology of "vapor" meaning "behavior" (or is it "'vapour' meaning 'behaviour.'"):D

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