Dare to Ask: Why do men need to spit so much in
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
Why do men need to spit so much in public?
Anne, Jacksonville Beach
What is it with guys and spitting?
Cheryl, New Haven, Conn.
It's a macho thing, pure and simple.
Aloysius, 37, male, Atlanta
I, too, have noticed this a lot. Just yesterday I was stopped at a light and
the man in front of me opened his door to let one go. I wish they would stop.
Why can't they just use a restroom?
Amy, 29, Portland, Ore.
And there's always the danger of it hitting someone. I was walking out of
school one day, and this guy suddenly spat to one side. I was standing right
there and had to go the rest of the way home with it on my jacket. All the way I
was thinking, ew, ew, ew.
H., 16, female, United Kingdom
Probably it is a subconscious urge to mark one's territory.
Augustine, 40, male, Columbia, S.C.
It's considered "unladylike" to hock a big loogie while walking down the
street ... I believe cultural mores tell us it's OK for men to do it, but not
Marc, 24, Morgantown, W.Va.
I've spit into the street when there was nobody around -- and no Kleenex.
Shirley, 50, Missouri
Our trajectory of research had hit a snag, and we didn't expectorate that
Emily Post's great-grandson would call back, but that was before we learned he'd
devoted an entire section of his etiquette book "Essential Manners for Men" to
"What's humorous is that when I submitted that part to my editor, she said
'Why on earth do you need a section on spitting?' She was aghast ... couldn't
believe there's even any discussion," said Peter Post, director of the Emily
Post Institute. "Then she came back and said she had to eat her words. She'd
shown her husband, and he gave her a half-hour harangue about when spitting is
OK and when it's not."
Turns out there are places and times for it. The athletic field, for one, or
when you need to clear your throat from a cold or something and have no
"You probably don't want to land it in front of the girl you're walking with,
but if you can find a place that's unobtrusive to others, it seems OK," he said.
Generally, in mixed company, swallow your enthusiasm, advised Post, who
wonders whether men let fly as a result of "field of combat" historical
"Possibly they were involved in these things where it was the male-only
bastion area [in battle or athletics], and all of a sudden, those gross forms
Now it's evolved into unconscious ignorance.
"I don't think it's rebellion; they just don't think how it will affect
people," he said.
And if you're a heavy-hitter when it comes to spitting, Post had some advice:
"Don't go to Singapore. It's against the law."
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Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
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