Blowing Os and the French Inhale

– Games

“A lot of smokers like to try and blow smoke rings.  They usually refer to this as blowing Os.  There is a significant amount of variation when it comes to the techniques used while playing this game.  I’ve seen some people tap the side of their cheek continuously to help the air flow into O like shapes.  Other people try and just cough the rings out using their lungs.  Ummm lets see… the object of the game is usually to blow the biggest ring.  Hmm, another technique used when smoking is the French Inhale.  Basically, the object of this game is to slowly let the smoke escape from your lips.  You should try and push the smoke upwards.  Then, the key is to inhale the smoke from your nose, creating what looks to be an inverse waterfall of smoke falling from your mouth to your nose.  It looks pretty cool, but people do it with cigarettes too.” (J.T.)

Informant Analysis:

“These games tend to be played amongst experienced smokers.  You usually smoke with the same group of people when you’re smoking weed.  So groups of friends that usually toke together sometimes play to see which one of them is best at it.  In one way, it makes the overall smoking experience more pleasurable.  In another, it allows you to show off and display your smoking talents thus granting you credibility as a smoker.  The bigger O that you can blow, the more credible you look.  Same thing goes with the French Inhale.” (J.T.)

Personal Analysis:

The informant does a great job at summarizing both the context and the meaning of these games.  It seems this game is really more of a trick that smokers use to make the experience more playful.  It gives the smoker something to do other than simply exhaling.  However, I would imagine that not only would these games be played amongst groups of friends, as the informant describes, but also when smoking with new friends or with utter strangers.  If you’re seen blowing large smoke rings then you’re making it clear to the rest of the group that you are a highly experienced smoker.

The act of blowing smoke rings is also commonly done amongst cigar and cigarette smokers.  Cigars provide a thicker smoke, thus making it easier to blow rings, while cigarettes tend to have a thinner smoke, thus making it harder to do than with cannabis.  Blowing rings can be seen all throughout popular culture, especially in films and television shows.  In the film, the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, for example, Bilbo Baggins blows a perfect circular smoke ring when smoking with his old, wizard friend, Gandalf.  However, Gandalf is quick to win the competition, in that he blows a huge ship fashioned purely out of smoke strait through Bilbo’s smoke ring.  It seems the director, Peter Jackson, is poking fun at the smoke ring competition.  A ship is clearly impossible to blow with smoke, and it is thereby monumentally more impressive.

Annotation: Blowing smoke rings is also documented as early as in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit.  It is mentioned by Gandalf in the first chapter of the book.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. Ballantine Books, New York. Copyright 1937, 1938, 1966. p. 7-8.

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