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Disgust is a sensation

rather more distinct in its nature, and refers to

something revolting, primarily in relation to the sense
of taste, as actually perceived or vividly imagined;
and secondarily to anything which causes a similar
feeling, through the sense of smell, touch, and even of

The term ' disgust,' in its simplest sense, means some^thing offensive to the taste. It is curious how readily
this feeling is excited by anything unusual in the
appearance, odour, or nature of our food. In Tierra del
Fuego a native touched with his finger some cold preserved
meat w^hich I was eating at our bivouac, and
plainly showed utter disgust at its softness; whilst I
felt utter disgust at my food being touched by a naked
savage, though his hands did not appear dirty. A
smear of soup on a man's beard looks disgusting, though there is of course
nothing disgusting in the soup itself.
I presume that this follows from the strong association
in our minds between the sight of food, however circumstanced,
and the idea of eating it.
It is remarkable how readily and instantly retchingor actual vomiting is induced in
some persons by the
mere idea of having partaken of any unusual food, as
of an animal which is not commonly eaten ; although
there is nothing in such food to cause the stomach to
reject it. When vomiting results, as a reflex action,
from some real causeas from too rich food, or tainted

meat, or from an emeticit does not ensue immediately,

but generally after a considerable interval of time.
Therefore, to account for retching or vomiting being so
quickly and easily excited by a mere idea, the suspicion
arises that our progenitors must formerly have had the
power (like that possessed by ruminants and some
other animals) of voluntarily rejecting food which disagreed
with them, or which they thought would disagree
with them; and now, though this power has been
lost, as far as the will is concerned, it is called into
involuntary action, through the force of a formerly well established
habit, whenever the mind revolts at the idea
of having partaken of any kind of food, or at anything
This suspicion receives support from the
fact, of which I am assured by Mr. Sutton, that the
monkeys in the Zoological Gardens often vomit whilst
in perfect health, which looks as if the act were voluntary.
We can see that as man is able to communicate
by language to his children and others, the knowledge
of the kinds of food to be avoided, he would have
little occasion to use the faculty of voluntary rejection
so that this power would tend to be lost through
As the sense of smell is so intimately connected with
that of taste, it is not surprising that an excessively
bad odour should excite retching or vomiting in some

persons, quite as readily as the thought of revolting

food does ; and that, as a further consequence, a
moderately offensive odour should cause the various
expressive movements of disgust. The tendency to
retch from a fetid odom* is immediately strengthened
in a curious manner by some degree of habit, though
soon lost by longer familiarity with the cause of offence
and by voluntary restraint. For instance, I wished to
clean the skeleton of a bird, which had not been sufficiently
macerated, and the smell made my servant and
myself (we not having had much experience in such
work) retch so violently, that we were compelled to
desist. During the previous days I had examined some
other skeletons, which smelt slightly ; yet the odour did
not in the least affect me, but, subsequently for several
days, whenever I handled these same skeletons, they
made me retch.
From the answers received from my correspondents it
appears that the various movements, which have now
been described as expressing contempt and disgust, prevail
throughout a large part of the world. Dr. Kothrock,
for instance, answers with a decided affirmative with
respect to certain wild Indian tribes of North America.
Crantz says that when a Greenlander denies anything
with contempt or horror he turns up his nose, and gives
a slight sound through it.^ Mr. Scott has sent me
a graphic description of the face of a young Hindoo
at the sight of castor-oil, which he was compelled occasionally

to take. Mr. Scott has also seen the same

expression on the faces of high-caste natives who have
approached close to some defiling object. Mr. Bridges
says that the Fuegians " express contempt by shooting
" out the lips and hissing through them, and by turning
*' up the nose." The tendency either to snort through
the nose, or to make a noise expressed by ugh or ach, is
noticed by several of my correspondents.
Spitting seems an almost universal sign of contempt
or disgust ; and spitting obviously represents the rejection
of anything offensive from the mouth. Shakspeare
makes the Duke of Norfolk say, " I spit at himcall
" him a slanderous coward and a villain." So, again,
FalstafP says, '^Tell thee what, Hal,if I tell thee a
" lie, spit in my face." Leichhardt remarks that the
Australians " interrupted their speeches by spitting, and
" uttering a noise like pooh ! pooh ! apparently exj)ress" ive of their disgust."
And Captain Burton speaks
of certain negroes, "spitting with disgust npon the
" ground." ^ Captain Speedy informs me that this is
likewise the case with the Abyssinians. Mr. Geacli
says that with the Malays of Malacca the expression
of disgust " answers to spitting from the mouth ;
" and
\\ith the Fuegians, according to Mr. Bridges " to spit
* at one is the highest mark of contempt."
I never saw disgust more plainly expressed than on

the face of one of my infants at the age of five months,

when, for the first time, some cold water, and again
a month afterwards, when a piece of ripe cherry was
put into his mouth. This w^as shown by the lips and
w^hole mouth assuming a shape which allowed the
contents to run or fall quickly out ; the tongue being
likewise protruded. These movements were accompanied
by a little shudder. It was all the more comical,
as I doubt whether the child felt real disgustthe eyes
and forehead expressing much surprise and consideration.
The protrusion of the tongue in letting a nasty
object fall out of the mouth, may explain how it is that
lolling out the tongue universally serves as a sign of
contempt and hatred.-^^