Saturday, April 05, 2008

Toilette Syndrome

Our recent trip to Cancun coincided with the beginning of work on our bathroom remodeling. Fortunately we chose our floor tiles before going on vacation, otherwise we would quickly have gone mad by the use of tile on any and all surfaces at our resort. "That looks nice. That could work in our guest bathroom. Is that tile on the ceiling?! Aaaaahhhh!" On the other hand the use of tile in a humid environment for surfaces that could experience a wet swimsuit at any moment is completely understandable and it was all very nicely done, but it was nice to just wander around a tile-rich environment without feeling compelled to critique it for possible application farther north.

Fortunately we did not think to ask for the names of the toilets at the resort or we could have been in real trouble on our return. Our primary task after we got back was to pick out commodes, which is precisely as romantic and emotionally rewarding as it sounds. It did not help that the various styles had fun names like "Memoir" (how much time do you end up on this?) and "Leeward" (check wind direction before use). There was also an advanced model whose box bore a picture of a toilet sucking the wallpaper off the wall. That, understandably, did not seem to be flying off the shelves.

We ended up picking one called "Colonnade" which I only recently realized has the word "colon" in it. On the other hand, I defy you to find the actual name anywhere in reasonable view on the item, so only the readers of this blog know what we have lurking in our bathroom. That is as good a guarantee of secrecy as any. (Hey, J, you still want to visit?)

Laura did some research (she did not tell me when and she refuses to say whether they have Wi-Fi in her office) and provides the following, um, nugget:
The origin of the (chiefly British) term loo is unknown, but one theory is that it derives from a corruption of the French phrase gardez l'eau loosely translated as "watch out for the water!" The phrase served as a warning to passers-by when chamber pots were emptied from a window onto the street.

A much more plausible theory comes from nautical terminology; loo being an old fashioned word for lee. Early ships were not fitted with toilets but the crew would urinate over the side of the vessel. However it was important to use the leeward side. Using the windward side would result in the urine blown back on board. Even on modern yachts, most (male) yachtsmen, whilst at sea, find it more convenient to go to the loo, than to use the heads."
So perhaps the Kohler people are big on sailing.

Update 4/6/08: Via comments, J directs all and sundry to this story of cutting-edge plumbing science.


Anonymous said...

I had always understood, without any scholarly research to back up my belief, that loo was short for Waterloo, which stood in for "water closet." This made perfect sense to me, given the British penchant for amking silly word games a part of the language (Cockney rhyming slang, for instance).


Anonymous said...

What?! No pictures?! And yes, Dave, I still want to visit -- if only to piss in your pot (so to speak ; ). Btw, the hotel we are staying at in London is called The Colonnade. Thanks for ruining it for me, though I am hoping they have silent flush toilets.

J. said...

After telling my spouse about this post, he asked if I had sent you a link to this article,, from Wired, which is one of our all-time favorites. Read and learn, my friend, read and learn.

Btw, we highly recommend Toto toilets, the installation of which may have saved our marriage. ("They are unstuffable!" says the spouse.)'Nuff said.