1. noisily release air from the stomach through the mouth; belch.
2. a noise made by air released from the stomach; a belch.
Synonyms: bolt, rout, ruck
Earliest known use: 1929
My eight-year-old son has discovered the art of burping. I don’t know where he stores them in his wiry frame, but he’s mastered a long, loud release of wind that rumbles through the air like freight train rattling down the tracks. I’m pretty sure he learned the skill – practices it, daily – with the other third grade boys in the back seats of the school bus.
For the most part, I dismiss his frequent eruptions. I figure, it’s part of having a boy and, while I don’t want to be talked at or hear the alphabet song sung in burp (a skill he’s also working on), I’ve decided to save my outrage for other more offensive aerial explosions that I’m sure are soon to become a hobby as well.
The burps, though, light a fuse in my otherwise rarely lit husband. He says the mere sound of it is like nails on a chalkboard. I find this both surprising – he is a former boy, after all – and amusing. My husband is so seldom angry while I’m so frequently irritated, it does my heart good to see him lose his parental cool from time to time.
We both agree on one thing, though, no burping at the dinner table. Otherwise, in the living room, the van, I tell my husband he’s just going to have to let it go. He gives me a pained expression in reply.
I have a habit, sometimes, of repeating things. Every couple of months or so, I turn to my husband in the middle of the mundane and announce in a voice filled with surprise, “Apples make me burp.” Usually, I say this after burping, as though I myself am just discovering the funny little quirk.
“I know,” he says, “you told me that.”
“Oh,” I say.
One night, sitting on the couch watching TV, my husband burped. “Ba-ba-ba-bup,” he said, opening and shutting his mouth as the air passed, breaking it into a multi syllabic expression.
I looked at him. “What was that?” I asked.
“A burp,” he said. “It’s what you do.”
“What?! I don’t do that!” I said, incredulous.
“Yes, you do,” he said, surprised by my denial. “You do it all the time.”
“No, I don’t,” I replied, scrunching my forehead as though searching through a mental catalog of past burps. “I never do that.”
He couldn’t believe my denial and I couldn’t believe his accusation, so we returned to watching TV as the long-married are want to do during an argument, especially if they want to stay long-married. Later though, who could say how long – a day? a week? – I happened to burp with my husband nearby.
“Ba-ba-ba-bup!” I said. Shocked, I looked him in the eye and laughed. “Oh, my gosh! You’re right, I do do that!”
I’ll never forget learning to burp a baby, watching the lactation consultant sit my tiny, hours old daughter on her knee. She cupped her hand just under the baby’s jaw bone, tilting her fragile body forward precariously, pounding with her other hand on the soft, rounded back. Holding my daughter that way, whacking her back, felt completely counter intuitive, but I quickly learned that, aside from slinging her onto my shoulder with my bone pressed just so against her diaphragm, it was the best way to get a burp.
There are few things as satisfying as mastering the art of burping a baby and knowing, with that hearty gush of air, that you’ve saved your baby pain and yourself hours of broken sleep.
I started out this morning wanting to write about fish burps. Fish burps, I now know, are a common side effect of fish oil supplements. Review after review on Amazon had customers who switched from one product to another explaining, “I couldn’t take the burps anymore!” The highest complement for fish oil online seemed less to do with its effectiveness than with the consumer’s relief, “No fish burps!”
I don’t like fish and I was hoping maybe the general sense of alarm over fish burps was nothing more than hysteria. But then I got my first fish burp last week. It was round and full, a small explosion of fishiness that rolled up into my mouth, silently. I was shocked, surprised. I thought to myself, “Fish burp!” Then I texted my husband, who loves fish and who I assumed would be more than a little envious.
“I had my first fish burp,” I wrote.
“How was it?” he replied.
“Fishy,” I wrote.
It occurs to me that, unlike the word ‘hiccup,’ which can be used to describe an unexpected interruption, the word ‘burp’ has no positive use aside from its frowned-upon bodily function. This, I think, is too bad. Is there no potential for positive association with the humble burp?
Author Anne Lamott has a well-loved quote in which she describes laughter as "carbonated holiness." It's a lovely idea, but we all know what carbonation leads to - an accumulation of air in the stomach that must somehow be released. Maybe, then we could push Lamott's metaphor to the extreme and suggest that burps themselves are unexpected explosions of holiness. Maybe.
The truth is, I didn't know what to write about this morning, except I kept thinking about (and enjoying) those round, full fish burps and the thought of those burps - the thought of writing about them - felt like a lump of air building pressure right in the center of my writer's digestive system. It soon became clear I wasn't going to have room to get much else done if I didn't make way, somehow, for that content to escape. So, I wrote almost 1000 words on burps and found I had much more to say than I thought I did and perhaps this post itself is a bit of a 'noise made by air released.' I suspect, like every good burp, it's hit you in one way or another - igniting offense, laughter or a simple reflective pause. And, now that I think about it, that's what holy things always tend to do.