Eating, drinking, shagging, shitting: what could be more natural than these four things? In this post, I’ll be taking a look at the fourth: shitting.
It’s always irked me that on public toilets, the lock reads “engaged” or “vacant”. Why not the Saxon English “busy” and “free” instead?
The room itself is a “toilet”, which is a French word. In British English, we half-jokingly call it the “bog“, a solid Saxon word (in heart, if not in genes!). I say “half” jokingly, as this is more-or-less the go-to word that I use!
Americans call it the “bathroom” when they’re being polite — another true English word. But I find this usage ridiculous: my answer to, “Where’s the bathroom?” is, “Oh, off for a bath are we?”… or, at least, that would be my answer if I wasn’t so English and well-mannered! I’ve also heard “restroom” — more Saxon English.
In Britain, we can also call it a “lav/lavvy” or a “loo“. The former comes from Latin lavatorium, but is a bishop-shifting thereof, so isn’t too bad. And the latter’s birth is unclear, but may be a pun on “Waterloo” (as in, “water closet”) or from the French lieux d’aisances.
People I know, including me, often call it a “shithouse“, more salty Saxon, although many would find this rude. And when a toilet it outside, we all call it an “outhouse” — Saxon wins yet again. And we see again how great -house is!
Of course, in many languages and not just English, it is known as a “WC“, short for “water closet”. “Water” is good Saxon, but “closet” is French; we could say the “C” stands for “cupboard”, too. “Cupboard” of course refers to shelves (boards) with cups on them, yet “Cupboard” now just refers to any small room/inbuilt storage space. (mark well: it’s true that “cup” is Latin, but it was borrowed in the Old English period and throughout the Germanic languages).
And then there’s “little boys’ room“, “powder room”, and I often use “my thinking room” — as it seems to be the only place I can get peace and quiet at times! — or “newspaper reading room”. Although “powder” isn’t homeborn English, and “boy” might not be Germanic.
In any case, plenty of choices other than “toilet”.
The porcelain thing you sit on itself is also known as a “toilet”. And in Britain, we use “bog” to refer to the place you sit as well a the room. I often call it, jokingly, a “glory seat” — though “Glory” isn’t homeborn English (“wuldor” was our own word, but that is deader than Harold II). “Shit-seat“, “shitter“, “shit-hole” (although mostly in metaphorical use) are words I use, and I have heard “crapper” and “crap-stool“. Therefore, “shit-stool” should work. You may have noticed that in polite English we refer to one’s “stools”; this literally comes from the word “stool” (which is the homeborn and original general use word for “chair”). Yes, historically, the toilet thing itself was known as a “stool“. But I actually think I might like to keep “shit-stool” to gloss “commode”! Or perhaps, on the analogy of the “bed-pan”, a “commode” should be a “seatpan” or “stoolpan“.
In public men’s toilets, there is often the urinal as well. When it is a bowl, that is for individual use, I call it a “pissbowl” or a “weebowl“. When it is a trough, a long one for several men, I call it a “pisstrough” or a “weetrough“. “Urine cakes” are, of course, “weecakes” or “pisscakes” — or, as a euphemism, “yellow-cakes” (as most are yellow).
Posh houses, and European houses, also have a bidet. William Barnes, the nineteenth century poet and one of the Gods of the Anglish movement, came up with the unbestable word “saddle-bath“, for it is literally a bath which you saddle. I used to call it a “bum/bottom-sink”, but “saddle-bath” is so much better.
Speaking of which: please, American cousins, stop saying “basin” and “faucet”; use the true English “sink” and “tap“.
By the way, we wash our hands with “soap”, but we wash our hair with “shampoo”. Now, I don’t mind “shampoo”; it’s a lovely left-over part of our hundreds of years in India (for it is a Hindi word champo). But why not just say “hairsoap“? By the way, I do often say that.
And last of all, what do we do in the bog? Or at least, what are we meant to do! Defecate/defecation and excrement, urine/urinate and micturate/micturition are unacceptable nonsense. I like it better when folk call a “spade” a “spade”: it’s “shit(e)” and “piss“, guys (both noun and verb).
But if you can’t bear such words, we have other Saxon softer words. These include “poo“, “plop“, “dung“, “number two“, “turd“, and we’ve already met “stool” and its verb form “pass a stool“. For the other thing, we have “wee“, for a noun and a verb, and the verb “pass water“.
© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry
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