"the sleeping young man with the jordan under the bed"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by flicg, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. flicg Member

    English, UK
    Jordan is apprently obsolete slang for chamber pot, but what is the origin? It definitely appears in Grose's 1811 dictionary, but I've seen references as far back as the Elizabethan era. It's apparently used in Shakespeare and Chaucer.

    Takeourword.com, issue 96, suggests the word comes from the river, on the basis that both refer to a body of water, but I don't think that's enough. On that basis, the expression could have come from any river, so why jordan?

    I came across a reference to a "Jordan bottle" being a bottle of water from the Jordan, brought back by pilgrims. There was no reference to chamber pot but I wondered if that was the true origin of the term. It might have fitted nicely with a usage in the Canterbury Tales, but sadly I find no reference in Chaucer.
  2. maxiogee Banned

    Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says
    Jordan. A name anciently given to the pot used by alchemists and dodctors, then transferred to a chamber-pot. It was perhaps originally Jordan-bottle, i.e. a bottle in which pilgrims and crusaders brought back from the River Jordan.
    Why, they will allow us ne'er a jordan,
    and then we leak in your chimney;
    and your chamber-lie breeds fleas like a loach.​
    .......................Shakespeare: Henry IV, Pt. I, II, i.
  3. flicg Member

    English, UK
    Thank-you. That's a great quotation!

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