Whoever Smelt it, Dealt It

While running a panel today I mentioned this page, and someone asked if I knew the origin of the phrase “he who smelt it, dealt it,” a phrase sometimes uttered to accuse whoever first alerted a group to the presence of a fart to being the one who supplied it.

This is a tricky one to research, really, because it’s hard to guess how people in the past might have written the word “Smelt.” Could it be “smellt” or “smealt?” Both versions come up now and then.

The phrase started showing up in print in the 1970s, though a 1976 Chicago Tribune article referred to it as a 1950s expression. While I haven’t found it in print, I suspect it didn’t take until the 1950s for someone to think of that phrase. Where did YOU hear it?

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