A Sniffing of Information

Stopping and smelling the flowers can do a lot more for a human being than we can imagine. In Greg Downey’s article “Giving Names to Aromas in Aslian Languages” Downey proves that human olfactory systems are not as weak as WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) people might assume it to be. Studies done by Anthropologists suggest a number of conclusions from studying cultures of Aslian languages, which include the people of Maniq and Jahai. Both of these cultures rely on smell as a pivotal way to communicate and surprisingly enhance their survival skills. Studies show that the people of Jahai “are very concerned about the dangerous and healing effects of certain kinds of smells, and the way some smells may draw tigers to human settlement”. The emphasis these cultures place on the olfactory system to communicate gives them the skills of describing basic smell words in the same sense as basic color terms, as explained by Downey. This skill allows their culture to maintain healthy, if anything smells a way it shouldn’t be they are able to detect it and treat it. This disproves the claims of Kant, Darwin as well as other scholarly figures that the sense of smell is of little value. The difference from western cultures is that they tend to accentuate the importance of the other senses and rarely link language with the olfactory system, which has affected the evolution of their ability to recognize and distinguish smells.