The Belch

Having considered the yawn and the sneeze, I turn my attention to the belch. According to Oxford English, the word means to emit gas noisily from the stomach through the mouth. Most belching, according to the sources I consulted, is caused by swallowing excess air. Like yawn and sneeze, the word belch has been in English for hundreds of years. It comes from the Middle English belchen, which is related to the Dutch balken, meaning “to bray,” and the Middle Low German belken, “to shout.”

Then there’s burp. What’s the difference between belch and burp? My research showed no difference between the two words, which begs the question: if there’s no difference why two words? Sources don’t answer that question, but my guess is that most people consider burping to be so minor as to be barely noticeable, whereas belching is loud and disgusting.

What’s the history of the word burp? I was very surprised to learn that it’s first recorded occurrence in English was in 1929 and that Americans invented it. Apparently, we came up with a word that sounded like the noise a small belch makes. It’s been in our language ever since.

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