For protection and modesty, you must wear the sonic hijab.

I ended a recent post by speaking of what we might do “if we felt inclined towards odd turns of phrase”. This was of course a cover for the fact that I am, in fact, inclined towards odd turns of phrase. I came across one today and felt so inclined towards it that I decided to share it.

The phrase in question was “olfactory burka”, appearing in the sentence “It’s just a body, there’s really no need to hide it completely in a kind of olfactory burka of unguents”, in this post (which comes with a not just mature but positively venerable content warning).

If we were blind dogs, or more broadly, any animal which relied more on smell than on sight (which many animals do), then cleansing ourselves, detergenating ourselves, and perfuming ourselves in the way that we often do, would have pretty much the same effect as wearing a burka: to completely conceal the person from being identified by others.

Of course we are not such animals: for us vision (especially colour-vision) is over-developed smell is remarkably under-developed (though how much is this exacerbated by different sorts of upbringing?), so our olfactory self-abolition doesn’t have anything like that sort of significance. Nevertheless it is an interesting phenomenon.

Does it mean anything? I tend to suspect that it does, that it can be interrogated to show us something. But what? I don’t want to just speculate, it’s too easy to read into things whatever you want to read into them.

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