I was very eager to set out on my drive today – I have such fond memories of my earlier times in London that I was keen to be underway and heading south. What a gorgeous, warm sunny day. I envisaged a peaceful drive from Ealing to Surrey, stopping as the fancy took me to check out places I remembered – maybe even knocking on the occasional door and asking if I could have a look at one of the houses I used to live in. I took along some photos of each place taken in the 1970’s and 1980’s thinking that the present day owners might find them interesting. I know I would if the situation were reversed.
I set out about 10 o’clock on Friday morning conscious of the fact that peak hour traffic is a little later than we have back home and I wanted to give myself every chance of having a most enjoyable drive. Little did I know what London had in store for me!
I had a hellish drive through Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith but I knew things would improve after I crossed over the River Thames at Wandsworth Bridge and left the City behind. This was easier said than done as there is now a major one-way system in place so I reached a point where I had no idea where I was. I had an outdated version of the street layout in my brain and didn’t recognise any landmarks. After a certain amount of what seemed to be retracing my steps repeatedly – accompanied by some colourful language, I might add – I decided to go with my gut instinct and to hell with the signs – none of which seemed to even MENTION the bridge anyway.
YES! I shouted at last. SUCCESS! as the bridge appeared in view.
Phew! Thank goodness that was over. I foolishly believed at that point that I had got through the worst of the day and I breathed a sigh of relief as I crossed the river. Who needs a Tomtom …. or SatNav. I know the way.
I’d been driving for an hour now and decided to keep my eye out for a loo – public or otherwise – figuring that it would be fairly easy to stop once the traffic thinned out in the suburbs.
And now – an interruption of the narrative: what word to use for ‘that place’.
‘Loo,’ as a lot of us know, is often used instead of lavatory in the UK and often in Australia.
A more commonly used word, at least in public, these days is ‘toilet’. I believe it’s a perfectly adequate word but am aware it’s not favoured by some (important) people.
So …..what to do?
U or non-U…….Pardon?….er…. What? (Google it!…..you’ll be amazed.)
‘Restroom’ seems a little understated as how many of us can honestly say we go in there to rest?
My main point here though is to take issue with the ever-increasing use of the word ‘bathroom’ instead of ‘toilet’ (or …….. I don’t know – perhaps we need a vote on it). Some people are being a little too delicate here I think in refusing to say ‘toilet’; they seem to believe that it’s uncouth to say ‘toilet’. Most of our public buildings in Australia have ‘Toilet’ signs. After all, I may simply be wanting to wash my hands, comb my hair or – as on one occasion – pull up my stockings as the elastic was a bit iffy and I was in danger of finishing up with my stockings around my ankles. If elimination of bodily wastes is also involved at some point … so what?
I was at a conference in Brisbane not too long ago and the parent company running the show was American. The fellow who welcomed us and told us where the amenities were kept using the word ‘bathroom’ instead of ‘toilet’ and he was an Aussie. The more he said it the crankier I became. At the first break I went up to him and asked why he didn’t use the word ‘toilet’ and he looked at me with utter contempt and replied that he was just being polite!
God help us.
Question: Since when is it a crime to say ‘toilet’ in Australia? Answer: Since we became swamped by American entertainment.
It’s all totally crazy. We are expected to say ‘bathroom’ to pretend that our bottoms aren’t going to be involved in any activity when we’re in there. We all KNOW there ain’t no bath in there – or a shower – so what’s the problem?
Let’s not take it any further. Toilet and lavatory both have washing/cleansing overtones and are one step removed from bodily functions therefore each should be considered proper enough to use in general conversation.
If we keep going along the ‘bathroom’ path then in 30 years time it’ll have become ‘laundry’ or ‘parlour’ or God-knows-what so that we can pretend that no private activities of any sort occur in there. And 60 years down the track? Maybe we’ll have to say ‘I’m just ducking out to the corner store’ to indicate properly that a number 1 or 2 is on its way.
My mind almost turns to custard as I try to make sense of this hypocrisy. We are letting American movies and TV programs dictate how we use the English language. Let’s stick to our way of speaking and keep our slang rather than give it all away in an effort to copy the US.
After all, the Americans, I’m sure will be quite happy if we keep our own unique take on the English language. They don’t want us to slavishly follow their example all the time. What a boring world that would be. Vive la difference!
That does mean though that school-age children in Australia will have to learn their vocabulary from sources other than American movies, TV, games etc.
Therein lies the difficulty no doubt.
Maybe I’m being a little disingenuous here as I know I’d feel uncomfortable using the word ‘crapper’, as in,
‘Please excuse me, Ma’am, I need to visit the crapper.’
Even though it’s simply the name of a maker of fine flushing lavatories called Thomas Crapper it just doesn’t sound too proper, does it? Yes I know that the word ‘crap’ has been in use since at least the 15 century but it would be very difficult to NOT associate the word with Thomas Crapper after he improved the flushing toilet. A modern-day firm even specializes in reproducing his designs.
Just check out the website if you don’t believe me. I love it. Thanks to them for the images too. What a peculiar lot we humans are.
Gosh……. talk about getting side-tracked! Enough with the ranting!
I’ve just crossed Wandsworth Bridge and am hopeful of finding a loo – and somewhere to pull over.
There is nowhere to pull over – ever!!! (Sound familiar?)