Friday, August 30, 2013

Potty Past

Ancient Rome  and Egypt had a sewer systems but after the fall of the empires human kind returned to chamber pots and out houses for centuries. As a historian, I battle my natural girlish inclination to romanticize the past because the academic training required a grounding in facts. So as much as I'd like a time capsule to take me back to my favorite eras: Tutor England, Wild West America, when it comes to plumbing I'm a modernist. 

Linguistically, the origin of the word toilet is only a few hundred years old. From the French toilette, the porcelain pot found in modern homes only a portion of the dressing ritual. English speakers incorporated the word and restricted the meaning exclusively to the pot. 

Toilet became vulgar to the English ear so two other euphemisms came to have the same meaning. The first, 'lavatory' came from the Latin word meaning wash basin but euphemistically came to mean the entire restroom operation. The second, 'loo' was English slang for the French 'garde l'eau' which loosely translates as 'WATCH OUT FOR THE WATER!'

Scattered across America are the remnants of remnants of our past, which are sometime better left alone. 

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