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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 12/12/2008 :  21:40:01  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I remember reading Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserable sometime back in high school, and a peculiar line has always remained with me. At one point in the book, Jean Valjean, a recently released prisoner, is retiring for bed. Hugo writes:
As for the man, he was actually so fatigued that he did not even profit by the nice white sheets. Snuffing out his candle with his nostrils after the manner of convicts, he dropped, all dressed as he was, upon the bed, where he immediately fell into a profound sleep.
I've just always found that such a strange thing to do. Who blows out candles with their nose? I've actually tried it, and it's more difficult than you might think. Aim is problematic for one. And it's difficult to generate the required wind speed to snuff a candle by just blowing out of your nostrils. And this is assuming one's air passages are completely clear, or you might find yourself with a wet but still perfectly-lit candle. Also, I find you must get quite close to the flame, which risks getting your nose hairs singed...

Anyway, I'm just throwing it out there. I can't find anything in Google about whether this was an actual practice of convicts or not, or what purpose it may have served. Does anyone know anything about this or is willing to speculate? Was Hugo just making shit up?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie

Edited by - H. Humbert on 12/12/2008 21:47:09

Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 12/12/2008 :  23:30:27   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That's 'cause you misunderstood... he snuffed it by putting his nose on it... 'cause French convicts are just THAT bad ass!

Seriously, I went on and looked at it. Found the French version of it but never any commentary on it... Although, apparently, another character in Hugo does pull the same kind of trick...
No idea where he got that from...

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 12/13/2008 :  00:19:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Simon

That's 'cause you misunderstood... he snuffed it by putting his nose on it... 'cause French convicts are just THAT bad ass!
You know, I almost included that as a possibility, but ruled it out as too unlikely to be considered.

But you sort of have a point with that bad ass thing. Maybe the whole point of blowing out a candle with one's nose is that it is exceedingly difficult. It would be somewhat intimidating to see large convict snuff out a flame like a snorting bull. And prisoners do have plenty of time to spend practicing such trivial skills, like rolling a coin down one's knuckles and the like.

Hmm. Now I have a sudden urge to practice this.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 12/13/2008 00:21:34
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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 12/13/2008 :  02:34:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Actually, they might not have had that much times. Jean Valjeant came out from hard labour, not sure he had any energy left after a day...

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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chaloobi
SFN Regular

1620 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  07:14:21   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send chaloobi a Yahoo! Message Send chaloobi a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I assumed he meant by physically putting his nose onto the lit candle. To snuff, afterall, is distinctly different from to blow out. What lame ass translator would mix that up?

As far as being bad ass, I don't know. Sure, braving the flame with your tender places is tough, but what about the wax in and around your nose area? Did they wear it as a badge of badness? I'd look at it as a badge of dumbassness. And exactly what does it look like to bend down and drop your face onto a lit candle? Seems awkward to me.

-Chaloobi

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Simon
SFN Regular

USA
1992 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  09:58:57   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Simon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't remember in the precise text that Humbert mentioned, but the other one does precise that he blew it off rather than just snuff it...

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan - 1996
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leoofno
Skeptic Friend

USA
346 Posts

Posted - 12/15/2008 :  12:04:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send leoofno a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Would that make the film version a snuff film?

I got a million of 'em. I'm here all week, folks.

"If you're not terrified, you're not paying attention." Eric Alterman
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