Where does the phrase "cut the cheese" come from? I understand it to be an idiom for flatulation. Is that the correct meaning?

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    If you cut into a wax-covered chunk of highly aromatic cheese you will understand the origin of the idiom.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 14, 2017 at 18:34
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    The adjective "cheesy" can be used figuratively to refer to anything that smells bad, such as fermented cheese. Some cheeses, like Limburger, are so smelly that even slicing the cheese will cause its odor to diffuse over a broader area. In other cases, the rind masks the odor of a cheese, but cutting the rind will cause the cheese to release its natural odor. Eventually, "cutting the cheese" was later applied figuratively to refer to flatulence, because like cutting a smelly block cheese, a fart can suddenly cause a smelly odor to broadcast over a wide area. quora.com
    – user66974
    Jan 14, 2017 at 18:40
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    @JOSH That's not what 'cheesy' means.
    – Mitch
    Jan 14, 2017 at 18:50
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    @Mitch - So what do you think it means? (Keeping in mind that it's a metaphor with several senses.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 14, 2017 at 19:30
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    @HotLicks JOSH said cheesy means 'figuratively to refer to anything that smells bad'. That is wrong because 'cheesy' cannot be used for the smell of vomit, burning oil, etc many things that smell bad. 'Cheesy' has a very particular meaning, either literally 'like cheese' or figuratively 'clichéd' (with a lot more nuance).
    – Mitch
    Jan 14, 2017 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


Cut the cheese:

  • (Slang) to release intestinal gas. (Crude. Use caution with the topic.) - Who cut the cheese? People who cut the mustard in the car have to get out and walk.


It’s difficult to track down the origin of this expression, but according the The Phrase Finder:

  • “Cut” has been used for flatulence since the 1800s, as testified by several sources and continued today in the mainly American expression, “To cut a fart”.

  • Rude Boy says cheese was introduced to the mix in the late 1960s, citing the Dictionary of American Regional English.

The following example is from The Definitive Fart Book - 1961:

  • Funny, everybody does it, but nobody wants anybody to know they're the somebody who: Cut the Cheese, Passed the Gas, Let One Rip, Shot a Bunny, Copped a Pop, Popped a Bubble, Cranked a Smoker, Pinched an Egg, Split the ...

Probably the simple and more intuitive answer is the right one, referring to the strong odour that emanates when the rind is cut on some of the more pungent cheese varities.

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    Yep, and I've never understood why it's cut a fart or cut a check (though the second is more understandable). Anyway, to let one is less gross.
    – Lambie
    Jan 14, 2017 at 19:52
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    An. Americanism related to flavo(u)rsome cheese ? sounds unlikely !
    – mgb
    Jan 15, 2017 at 1:22
  • "He unleashed a replevy that would awaken the dead." I saw that, or something very much like it, in a novel (Goosefoot, I believe) by the Irish author Patrick McGinley. There is a legal term, replevin, but I don't see how there could be a connection between it and the concept under discussion. Jan 15, 2017 at 15:17

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