Smell-versation: Better Tipping Through Chemistry

by Translation Guy on October 21, 2011

In our last post we talked about how a little bit of scent training on the chocolate trail could turn any college student into a natural born ol’ hound-dog, because hound dog-powered smelling is the secret ability of the human brain. All those homo sapian synapsii will put a dog’s brain to shame when it comes to olfactory fame.

In that same post I also boasted of how far off I could smell my brother coming, a testimony not only to my own abilities, but to  his own potency in getting his chemical message out there. Because in smell-versation, getting “heard” requires getting the scent out, so those that say it, spray it, in a manner of speaking.

It’s interesting that this powerful form of communication is not the kind of thing we talk about in our daily conversations. We seem to prefer to have some of our most heart-felt interactions by subtle scent alone. In most cases, the topics of these smell-versations are taboo in the spoken word, and shall not be written.

In a recent post, we saw how researchers in Israel were able to turn men off with the scent of a woman’s tears. Surely, since the distant past, those tears have saved many a day as that plea for mercy has been heard again and again. A child rubbing tears from his cheeks is a chemical jack to the better angel of our natures.  That scent-spreading behavior may not as effective as a skunk turned tail, but is  still pretty good for quickly getting the chemical message out for all to see and smell. and that is a beautiful thing.

Tears are just rapid response. Sweat and hair follicles exude an ever-changing cocktail of hormones for easy smelling by others.

Plenty of scientific studies suggest that humans unconsciously exchange chemical messages that help everyone get into the groove, whether menstrually, kinship-wise, or to share stress, fear, or some other emotional response.

The McClintock Effect, first reported in the literature in 1971, documented how women in  close quarters tend to slip into the same menstrual groove.  And it’s not just the ladies.  Men are paying attention too, and we know how by just now much, because they reach for their wallets.

Ovulating erotic dancers earn bigger tips. So how do tippers figure that out? “Ovulating Now!” is not pulsating in neon on Albuquerque’s Central Avenue. In a study conducted at my alma mater, UNM researchers discovered “the naked truth: Strippers participating in the study scored $335 in tips per five-hour shift when ovulating, compared with $260 per shift during the luteal phase after ovulation and $185 per shift while menstruating.” Go Lobos! That’s the University New Mexico Lobos, yo!

So scientists have learned that a mere whiff or lick of another’s secreted message could prompt defense, pursuit, reproduction, or many other possible behaviors,” writes Jason Castro in Scientific American.

In conversation we use phonemes as our unit of meaning, syllables and such. In a smell-versation the unit of meaning is a pheromone, a hormone-like chemistry compound transferred between animals like you and me,  via inhalation of evaporation of secretions like tears and sweat. With such a signaling mechanism, one animal could “release a specific behavior” in another, as demonstrated by those scientists  from my own UNM, in the Duke City,  Breaking Bad country, yo.

See what I mean about how smell-versation is the kind of thing we usually avoid in conversation or even thinking about? It’s the heavenly secret scent of those phonemes that is writ upon our hearts, and more measurably, on our wallets.



  1. Paul says:

    I can see how odors attract us to certain people without us even knowing it. Although I think it is probably more noticeable when odors make us want to stay away from others.

  2. My wife is from Europe and loves the smell of natural things. Us Americans though seem to cover those up with Fabreeze.

  3. Jerry Hicks says:

    Are people really still intune with pheremones> I always see the ads in the back of Popular Mechanics and stuff that sell the sex ones “Spanish Fly.” I always assumed it was a scam.

    • Ken says:

      Assume makes an ass out of you and me, Jerry. I think you have to do the research. Sounds like your doctoral thesis at UNM. Go Lobos, Yo!

  4. loracweb says:

    Smell-versations. That’s awesome. I need to start working that into conversations.

  5. Gus says:

    I’ve heard that women who live together actually sync their cycles. Just never knew why. Could it be because they smell each other?

  6. Margaret says:

    My wife can’t get enough of smelling. She smells eveything. Our kids, books, just about everything she touches. My oldest also smells things a lot. I just don’t get it.

  7. Smelling should be more important. I think it is the sense that is often left out the most. But, to me I think it is the sense that can make more of a lasting impression in the brain.

  8. Evie says:

    Not sure if it’s needed, but I think I should do my own research into this stripper and tipping thing. Maybe a 6 month study would be good?

    • Ken says:

      Tips don’t sound too bad, either.

  9. Calvin Best says:

    If strippers were smart, they would find someone to invent a drug that would make them ovulate everyday.

  10. I know some dogs are really good smellers, but are all dogs good smellers? Or can they all smell well, but some just don’t have the brain power to interepret as many smells?

  11. TheAnimal says:

    I love the smell of those cinnamon brooms they sell at Christmas time. It’s either that or vanilla that is my all time favorite smell. When it comes to people smells, count me out.

  12. Tipster says:

    Sorry, but the deductive reasoning used with respect to the stripper study seems a bit flawed. The strippers might simply feel a bit less sexy during those certain times of the month, which in turn might “translate” into less sexy dancing and less flirtatious interaction with customers, thus leading to lower tips.

    I agree with Evie, however. Further research on our part is required to investigating this phenomenom (with phonemes, pheromones, or just cold hard cash).

  13. Hello! I totally agree with what you wrote on the blog. Keep it well, because blogs like this are rare on the net too. A greeting!

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