Spending a penny for our ceramic friends – World Toilet Day, 21 November 2021
The toilet was where I met God – arguably many of us did that in our younger days. This life-changing event happened on my twenty-fifth birthday. I was working for a cool watersports company in Guvercinlik near Bodrum, Turkey.
The staff worked hard and in our time off, we played hard too. We enjoyed the local beach bars with their cheap votka and cin and other exciting spirits and liqueurs. On that birthday evening, I drank a measure of each, optic by optic.
Today, even the thought of Raki, brings me out in hives.
I don’t remember much until, later, conscious, I found myself in my colleague’s bathroom, hands embracing the toilet bowl, head resting on the rim, hallucinating. I remember seeing massive, throbbing, fluorescent green veins on my legs. I promised God then and then that if he’d save my life – I would be His. He did and I did, although it took many more years before I closed that deal. But I do remember the toilet bowl. Strange to say it, but in the morning, it was lovely, clean, and shining.
We’ve all had bad toilet experiences. Just think of using portaloos at posh parties. NEVER LOOK DOWN.
Think of the fly-filled roadside toilets in France (sorry dear French friends but those “gardez l’eau” were really quite vile.) Squat loos can be particularly gross especially if your dungarees straps go down the outlet by accident. Don’t think about any of that.
Equally gross was the mountainside toilet I experienced a few years ago. If you look down the toilet pan you can watch as the effluent tumbles down the mountain. That is not worth thinking about either.
My dear friend, Sarah Klerkefors, takes up the story from her travels in Nepal.
This is my favourite picture which I took hiking in the Himalayan foothills. Basic toilets, often holes in the ground, were available. It was frowned upon to relieve yourself in the wild.
She continued: “having been blessed with a weak bladder, toilets have always featured strongly in my life. I hated the dusty, freezing cold, old Victorian public loos of my childhood. They had scary water cisterns attached high up on the walls. They loomed, like hungry albatrosses waiting to swoop down on their prey. I still have a dread of public loos thanks to this experience.”
Spending a penny or the language of toilets
I think we Brits are a bit sensitive when it comes to the language of toilets. So, not surprisingly, we have invented lots of terms for one of our most awkward words; the er, toilet.
What’s in a name?
Here are just a few examples.
- The word TOILET is derived from the French word, toilette.
- The BOG is old English term, dating back to 1789. (Strangely though, this term does not mean using a bog for a toilet.)
- The CRAPPER dates from around 1932, when Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd, manufactured, er, toilets.
- Both LAVATORY and LATRINE are derived from the Latin word lavare and also the Medieval lavatorium.
- The KHAZI is derived from Cockney slang meaning privy.
- The PRIVY is an older English word, originally meaning a hidden place.
- The HEAD is a naval term; the location of the, er, toilet, was at the head of the ship for obvious reasons.
- The LOO, despite being a very British word for toilet is actually French, derived from the phrase “guardez l’eau.”
- The RESTROOM/POWDER ROOM are both quite sensitive American terms erring on the side of modesty.
- WC is short for WATER CLOSET which is short for WASH DOWN CLOSET a term used in England from the 1870s.
- THE JOHN, my favourite and named after Sir John Harrington who was the inventor of the forerunner to the first flushing toilet.
Thanks go, to the Romans whose very civilised nature, thankfully, determined the future of, er, going to the toilet.
Be it ever so humble..
But any toilet, no matter how humble or great is a wonderful thing. Just think how long we would last without them and DO think about that, please.
I love my toilet
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
If I was to do one thing for humanity – notwithstanding my career to date – it would be to give everyone in the world a flushing toilet. Let’s support World Toilet Day.