Friday, December 11, 2009

Something You Can Take Sitting Down...

I have a large number of topics stored away about which to blog. Many are URLs of interesting articles I've saved, others are newspaper clippings or scribbled notes about things that caught my interest. I have so many of these things saved in so many places that I often forget I have them, and find them after the particular event about which I wanted to write has already passed.

Which brings me to World Toilet Day, which is celebrated (if I can use the expression) on November 19th each year. There was an extensive article about World Toilet Day and the history of the toilet last month in Time can read all about it here. In short, World Toilet Day, hosted by the World Toilet Organization, is a way to raise awareness for the 2.5 billion people around the world who live without proper sanitation.The humble toilet is, of course, one of those things we don't like to talk about in polite company, but which is of critical importance to our daily lives. If we didn't have toilets conveniently placed in the Capitol, for instance, Congress would be even more full of ... uh ... never mind. And if you've had - as I have - the experience of using the good old outhouse, you can really appreciate the modern, streamlined, one-gall0n-per-flush ceramic throne.

We have many interesting euphemisms for the toilet as well. It's known variously as the water closet, the lavatory (from the Latin lavare, meaning "to clean"), the rest room, or - if you're a toddler or a toddler's parent, the potty. In England, it is sometimes known as the loo, a term derived from the French expression gardez l'eau! (watch out for the water!), which was often shouted as people threw the contents of their chamber pots out the window into the street below...the expression was corrupted over time to "gardy loo!" and, thus, the expression "going to the loo."

No one knows who invented the toilet, but the unsung hero of toilet development was certainly a gentleman named Thomas Crapper who, in the 1880s, was hired by England's Prince Edward (later, King Edward VII) to construct lavatories in several royal palaces. While Mr Crapper did, in fact, patent a number of bathroom-related inventions, he did not actually invent the modern toilet. He was, however, the first one to display his bathroom wares in a showroom, so that when customers needed a new fixture, they would immediately think of his name.


Amanda said...

How did I miss Toilet Day? I remember reading a lot of interesting bits of information on it last year.

This is a good post because most of us take the toilet for granted but having lived in Palembang, I now appreciate toilets much more than before.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

LOL! Toilet Day? Now that's an odd thing to celebrate

Anonymous said...

Corn cobs? That's nothing compared to what the older generation uses in Southeast Asia. Bamboo, that's the ticket, available in every thicket!

Eminence Grise, lowering the level of discourse even further than ever.

Leslie David said...

Ode to the toilet--only you would put this on a Friday--good for laughs. You forgot to mention those parts of the world where the pedestal toilet is not the norm, instead in Asia the fixtures are set in the floor--try using something like that when skiing and trying to hold bib overalls out of the way, or in heels. I'll let your fertile imagination come up with the pictures. Funniest thing I saw though was on the train from Seoul back to Taegu--the rest room had a pedestal toilet but someone had stood up on top of the steat--you could see their footprints.

Mike said...

I'm glad you investigated the origin of the word loo. That's come up in conversation before. Now I can be the bearer of new information.

"Where did the word loo come from?" "I can't remember but Bilbo knows. Here's his number."