Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Do you think you have problems in your basement? Is it messy? Too many boxes? Tools? Spiders or centipedes? Leaks? The bogeyman? 

Well, how about effluvia?  Effluvium (a term no longer in technical use) was the exhalation or emanation of bad odors that were of an injurious and noxious nature. Effluvia is related to miasmas, the topic I discussed last week. Both were bad air thought to cause disease when inhaled.

Here’s an excerpt from The Young Housewife’s Counsellor and Friend (1871):

Examine your cellars frequently at all seasons, especially in the spring, when vegetables are sprouting and decaying. The effluvia from decomposing vegetable matter will engender disease. Have everything of the kind removed, with all mouldy articles, boxes, barrels, tubs, especially such as have contained vegetables, pickles, either of meats or vegetables, fish or spirits, vinegar, wines, or decaying matter of any kind. Leave the doors and window open frequently for airing; whitewash at least once a year, and fumigate, if any disagreeable odors be present, with chloride of lime. Attention to such matters may save the lives of your family. Surely worth the pains. Typhoid fevers, cholera, etc. are engendered in this way.

Based on this, I think I’d rather take on the bogeyman than a basement full of effluvia.


  1. Funny!!! :-) What book research is this for??? :-)

  2. Dagmar, I'm not actively working on a book proposal set in the 1800s, but it is a possibility. But reading history is my hobby.

  3. I have GOT to use this word in my current manuscript. LOL! It's based in New York, so basements are possible. Down here in Southeast Texas, where we're just above or below sea level, basements are unheard of...they're called indoor swimming pools. ;-)


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