Informant: If anybody burped and you didn’t say ‘safety’ after you burped, people could go ‘doorknob’ and just start hitting you until you touched a doorknob. And if you farted and you didn’t say ‘safety,’ it would be ‘lightbulb’ and people would keep hitting them until they touched a lightbulb.
The informant enjoyed watching other kids participate but says she never had any bodily emissions at school that caused her to be a victim of it. She only played along at home with her little brother who had bodily emissions quite often.
Collector: When would you use this phrase? In front of adults? In a group or one-on-one?
Informant: I don’t think we were afraid to use it with adults but usually it happened with a group of kids…in a classroom, at recess, at a sleepover or birthday party, or among siblings.
Collector: Could you say safety at any time, or did it have to be said before the first person hit you?
Informant: You had to say it before the person hit you. Most people said it right away to avoid being hit.
Collector: Was it viewed as a game or as something else?
Informant: Good question. I think it was more of a ritual and an occasional amusement. It was a game though, in the sense that the burper or farter technically lost if they didn’t say ‘safety’ and someone though to hit them.
Collector: Why do you think that a doorknob and a lightbulb were the “home free” objects? Did anyone ever use some other object?
Informant: No, it’s always been a doorknob and a lightbulb. I think it’s because they’re always accessible but not always in front of you.
The informant says it was mostly the boys at her school who played the game. This is not surprising as it’s become almost expected of boys to be entertained by bodily emissions and other ‘gross’ human actions. As a child, concepts of gender are internalized that lead girls to often feel pressured to be more pure and pristine whereas boys are more pressured to be attracted to dirty things.
This is also a case of taking something they perceive from adults and converting it into a game. Kids learn from adults that bodily emissions in public are inappropriate. In a way, this game reinforces this by adding a punishment to those who do burp or fart in public.