toilet (euphemism)

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by ThomasK, Apr 13, 2008.

  1. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    As a result of the 'bathroom' question I am just wondering how people 'dodge' (if that is the right word) referring to
    (a) the toilet,
    (a')going to the toilet
    (b) the excrements

    Asw for answers:

    (a) I remember the poem 'Geography' by T.S. Eliot, a real ode to the toilet, where he calls it (or the Arabs do, he says) 'the house where everyone goes'. (if I am not mistaken).
    I have once heard: '[the place] the King/ Emperor goes to on foot'

    In some dialects in Flemish
    - het gemak (the ease, literally !)
    - het vertrek (the stately room, originally, but I am not that sure)

    (a') naar achter gaan (to go to the 'backside')

    Also :

    (b) kaka in children's language in Dutch (or only Flemish).

    But maybe the answer will be quite short if someone finds a site dealing with those euphemism, or metaphors.
  2. Maroseika Moderator

    There is quite the same figuratuve verb in Russian. Most likely in other languages, too, because it's too natural to compare defecation with "easing".
    This is very ancient word originating at least from Greek κακκάω. Same root is used in Russian, too, though also mostly in the language of children.
  3. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks. I had thought of another association: one is at one's ease in the privacy of that little room... Both may be implied, I guess.

    I am really surprised that the other word could be based on Greek. The fact that it is that easy (plosives plus the most open sound plus repetition) will help to explain why it is so universal as well, I suppose (just like baba/ papa). Wonder if Chinese or Japanese know the same word or words now or other non-Indo-European languages.
  4. Maroseika Moderator

    I'm far not sure "kaka" belongs to the number of such "simple" words. In its original sense it meant just "durty, waste" and was applied to the faeces figuratevely. However it's really very simple for children to pronounce it, and maybe this is the real reason why this ancient word has survived in the children's speech.
  5. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Aha, is that what it meant ? Very interesting !

    Now, I remember one of my old (and former, even late) linguistics professors had developed the hypothesis that a lot of linguistic changes or evolutions were due to child language... I was reminded of that when reading your (kind of) objection, which is quite plausible as such. But if his assumption/ hypothesis were correct, it would mean that it was basically children's language and then got adopted by other language users...
  6. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    This is new for me, and I'm an Arab. However, it may differ from place to place. Expressions I've heard are:

    beit Al raHa = house of rest (because you releive yourself)
    beit al mayy = house of water (because, well, you use a lot of water)
    beit al adab = house of manners, this one is to avoid saying toilet, so you say adab, which literally means manners or courtisy; because you are being courtious.
    I don't recall any "metaphores" for this, they just say they are going to any one of the above, or even the proper name: MirHaad or Khalla'
  7. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks !
    As for T.S. Eliot: I did not say it, I think I read it in the poem itself.
    House of manners: interesting.

    But then Mirhaad and Khalla' are proper names referring to what ? Or to whom ? To persons ?

    [Just wondering: would you have an idea regarding adverbs expressing intensity [my other question about 'sehr', très', ... on this forum...]?
  8. mallujulia Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    In Spanish we normally use
    a) the toilet: el vater, el water, el retrete( a bit old fashioned), el aseo ( abit more polite),
    b) going to the toilet: ir al baño(neutral/polite), visitar al señor Roca ( colloquial and for young people) (Roca is the name of the factory which makes most of the WC in Spain), poner una fax( to defecate)(colloquial and for young people), hacer pis y caca
    c) the excrements: excrementos, cacas.
  9. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, Mallujulia, but could you explain a little ?

    I know a little Spanish and some Italian and quite some Latin, which allows me to understand :
    - el retrete (place of retreat, I guess)
    - el aseo (ease ????)
    - bano: bathroom, I guess
    (What is hacer again ? 'Make' ??? )
  10. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    An older Austrian German euphemism for going to the toilet is (I give the dialectal phonology as this never would be said in Standard German):
    - auf d'Seitn gehn = going to the side
    It is now out of use or only used by very old people.
    An interesting fact here is that Slovenian for WC = stranišče (where 'stran' = 'side') and there indeed could be a connection here. However, I am not familiar enough with Slovene to be sure of this, and I do not know if a similar construction as in Austrian German is possible there.

    Another very common Austrian word for the toilet is 'Häusl' (and going to the toilet = 'auf's Häusl gehn' = go to the little hut outside the house where in former times the toilet was: outside to keep the smell out, in the times before the invention of the Water Closet), but I am not sure if this still qualifies as euphemism; it is rather colloquial, if not even considered rude by some (myself I wouldn't consider it rude, but some of the citizens of Vienna certainly would). The 'Häusl' still is widely used in Austria; probably not so very much by the younger generation, but anyway not really old-fashioned.

    Then there is 'Abort' where 'ab' = 'from-away' and 'ort' = 'place', so literally this would be the place which is away from the house where you live in, a similar construction as 'Häusl', but old-fashioned nowadays.

    Another 'euphemism', if you like, would be '00' (= double-zero, not double-o) as on old toilet doors there was written the double-zero. Spoken this would be 'Null-Null'. This is because in hotels, when there was only one toilet in each floor, the WC was near the lift or staircase and had the door number zero or double-zero.
    However this is almost out of use nowadays, WC has taken over. (For whatever reason. You still see the inscription used today, e. g. in trains. On Austrian motorways rest areas with modern toilets are signified as 'WC' while older rest areas with old-fashioned outhouses are referred to as '00': and yes, there still remain some though they are a dying species on Austrian motorways.)

    But we Austrians don't seem to be very fond of euphemisms for the toilet; it seems that we do not consider the daily chores of our bowels as something which should never, ever be referred to directly.
    The most common words we would use here, if we want to stay neutral, certainly would not be "Häusl" or "Abort" something else, but simply "Wo ist das W.C., bitte?" or "Wo ist das Klo, bitte?" (This time short for Klosett = closet.)

    No one would take offend if asked where the WC is, and almost the same would go for Klo (it is just that tiny little bit more familiar).

    As for the excrements, I am not sure if there is any common German euphemism for human excrements (very small children just say 'gaga' or 'gacki', but adults wouldn't use that except when speaking with children), else it's simply 'Scheisse' which is no euphemism at all, on the contrary - it corresponds to English 'shit'.

    But there is an euphemism widely used for excrements of animals, especially dogs: the excrements of a dog simply are the 'Gackerl' = a diminutive to 'gacki'. There's even a slogan to motivate dog owners to use the bags for the dog's pooh in parks: 'Nimm ein Sackerl für sein Gackerl' = 'Take a baggy for his pooh' (it does not rhyme in English - what a pity ... :D).

    However, I never would use 'Gackerl' for human excrements, and I haven't heard it used in this sense, ever. This is just for dog pooh here, in my opinion.
  11. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Grazie, Sokol !
    (a) Little house/ hut: I guess we have something similar in Dutch of Flemish, not Abort, though (although 'the backside' sounds like that).
    00 : never heard. It reminded me of lavatory all of sudden, bathroom...

    (a') No euphemism: well, neither do we in general or just for the fun. But at least you do not use dysphemisms. (Strangely enough, the Americans will probably ask for the bathroom or even ask where/ if they can wash their hands !-)

    (b) Gackerl : what would be the origin !

    Great contribution. thanks !
  12. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    Khalla' is derived from the verb ikhtala, which means "to be alone with himself", it generally refers to the room itself in which the toilet is and it literally means "the place in which one is alone". Mirhaad originally meant the toilt itself but later on it started to mean both the toilet bowl itself or the room in which the toilet is located; it's derived from the verb rahadha, which means "to wash with much water, it was called so because in Arabic culture one usually washes himself with a lot of water after finishing his 'business'. Both words are pan-Arab.
  13. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Very interesting, thank you !
  14. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    But we do! :D ('Scheisshäusl' would be one like that; there are others, and plenty.)
    I didn't mention them here because this is not the topic of the thread.
    'Gackerl' is derived from the verb 'gacken' which means simply 'to shit', but 'gacken' is a dialect word, and not standard language, and even as a dialect word it is distinctly children's language (used between smaller children, or from adults to children).

    'Gackerl' however is not children's language - I am not quite sure if I could say that it is 'doggy' language. :D Because really it is mainly used when 'talking' to dogs (which so many dog owners are used to do).
  15. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
  16. Nizo Senior Member

    In Esperanto, the most common word for WC (= toilet = lavatory = restroom) is necesejo, literally translated the necessary place. An alternative is klozeto. One wipes with neceseja papero or klozetpapero.

    I don't know of any euphemisms for to go to the bathroom(as we say in the United States). Esperanto speakers normally say iri al la necesejo or iri al la klozeto.

    To urinate is urini or, informally, pisi.

    To defecate is feki. Familiar terms are kaki and merdi. The result is feko or merdo. Ekskremento is fairly formal. As in other languages, Esperanto speakers might use the expletives fek! or merd!
  17. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks, my brother had told me that: '[/the place for] necessities'.

    [Off topic on Esperanto snipped. Please open a new thread if you want.
    Mod OL]

  18. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    The phrase about "Emperor" is very old and common in Balkan countries (I use it myself!) and it survived other newer euphemisms. One of these I remember from my childhood (but it's not popular anymore): WC used to be replaced with "Venice", so my generation was going to Venice a number of times a day...

    One of the phrases that is dying (because of modern toilets) is "to go to field", with distinction: "to go to small field" and "to go to big field". But phrase about "emergency, necessity" ("small emergency" and "big emergency") is still alive.

    There is also a big number of locally used phrases - like to "let water go", "throw a whip" (this one is macho version ;) ), "say hello to a friend" (macho again)... One of the very popular phrases in 80's and 90's was "to phone" (based on a popular Balkan joke), but it wasn't too convenient, for once we at our working place sent a client who wanted "to phone" to toilet, and a minute later he appeared with desperate face and said: "But I want to phone REALLY!" (I guess it happened to other people as well.)
  19. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    This is itneresting. And some remind me of things we used to say: 'the small/big errand'. I think we might also say: 'to go behind the hedge' because there you had at least some privacy for your 'small errand'.

    I do not know any real macho versions really. Your 'phonic' euphemism is hilariously funny indeed !
  20. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    It did in Austria too - this still could be said, even though this isn't done too often any more (and if then in an ironic context, usually).

    This reminds me - the Austrian euphemism (old-fashioned and already dying out) "auf d'Seitn gehen" - "go to the side" also could be specified as "go to the small/big side", meaning the exact same as the Serbian phrases.

    As far as slang is concerned I can offer "schiffen" which usually meant "to pour": when I was young only boys (from the younger generation) used this word for "urinate", but now the use has spread to girls and the middle ('parents') generation. Nowadays, it seems to be that "schiffen" would not even mask the original meaning any more but like if "schiffen - urinate" would be the main meaning, with the meaning "to pour" appearing to be secondary.
  21. filoutjie Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Australia, Afrikaans
    As in Flemish (gemak) and Austrian (Hausl) we have "gemakshuisie" and "kleinhuisie" in Afrikaans. "huisie" is a small house, so these words translate as "little house of comfort" and "little small house" - both old-fashioned. Nowadays people use "toilet".
    A vulgar word is "kakhuis" (shit house), but it is usually used when you want to say someone is rich: Hy het 'n kakhuis vol geld. (He has a shit load of money.)
  22. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Haha. Would you have 'funny', strange, expressions for going to the toilet in SA as well ???

  23. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hello, in Hungarian we can say:

    toilet = vécé, illemhely [very strange compound, illem = decent behaviour + hely = place], árnyékszék [árnyék = shade + szék = chair], klozet, and surprisingly ahová a király is gyalog jár [where the king walks, too]

    going to the toilet = I think the most interesting are, kiengedi a fáradt gőzt [let out the dead steam] or nagydologra megy [go to big thing], trónol [be enthroned]

    excrements = kaki, kaka, nagydolog [big thing], kisdolog [small thing]
  24. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland

    a) The proper term is käymälä, which can be translated "a place where you spend only a short time". Most usually it's called veesee (from WC) or vessa, sometimes huussi (from Swedish uthus) which originally means a separate small house. A more vulgar expression is paskahuussi, literally "shithouse".

    a') When I was young I used to say: "I'm going to shake hands with the best friend of my future wife."

    b) There are colloquial words ad infinitum.
  25. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)

    in Old Czech prevét (private), now prevít means a bad person or thing (bastard, crap, ...)

    the standard term is záchod (originally an euphemism), it is a verbal noun derived from the verb to go behind a thing. BTW, in Polish the same word means sunset/west (the sun goes behind the horizon).

    colloq. hajzl (from Austrian German)

    abbr. WC [ve: tse:] or rarely 00 [o: o:]

    latrina (in camps) from Latin (lavatrina from lavare to wash), paradoxically a dry toilet, without water

    An old phrase from the times of the Austrian Empire:

    (místo) kam i císař pán chodí sám
    (the place) where even Our Lord Emperor (i.e. Franz Joseph I.) goes alone
  26. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    In Greek:
    We use the hybrid word «τουαλέτα» (tualeta, f., from the French toilett(e) and the Greek feminine ending -a), for the toilet.
    For euphemisms we use the names:
    1/ «Tο μέρος» (to meros, n., lit. "the place").
    2/ «Το αποχωρητήριο» (to apoxoritirio, n., lit. "the retire-room")
    A colloquial word is «ο καμπινές» (o kambines, m.), or «το καμπινέ» (to kambine, n.).

    [x] is a voiceless velar fricative, known as the hard ch
  27. Maroseika Moderator

    Russian variant: место, куда царь пешком ходит (the place where the tzar goes by feet).
  28. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    The worst euphemism I've heard is mukavuuslaitos (comfort institution), which also seems to be a Swedish calque: bekvämlighet. It was in common use at the beginning of the 20th century. :)

    a') My uncle used a variant of this: Menen kättelemään kaveria. I'm going to shake hands with the pal. Women often wish to avoid phrases in this style - they're more like to say Menen puuteroimaan nenäni. ~ to powder my nose.
  29. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    .. or to wash my hands ! Or: to water the plants (only for one part of the job ;-) )

    By the way the idea of 'comfort' has turned up here regularly. In some Flemish dialects it is called 'het gemak', which is just the same as 'the ease' (basis of 'easy').
  30. catlady60

    catlady60 Senior Member

    Nazareth, PA
    English-US (New York City)
    Some American euphemisms include:
    use the restroom/ladies' room/men's room
    use the facilities (
    polite term for the toilet)
    relieve oneself
    We often say, I have to go (to the bathroom)
    Do one's business
    (said of an animal, especially a dog)
    Metaphors many Americans use for the toilet:
    I have to go to the john
    Visit my friend John
    Take a leak
    (used by men)
    Pop a squat (used by women in joke, but describes how female dogs urinate) :D
    Lift one's leg (describes how male dogs urinate)
    Use the kitty litter or the litter box :D (a cat metaphor)
    Download a brownload :D:D:p:p (Internet metaphor)
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2010
  31. Elvus Member

    In Polish we also use this common Slavic (as I assume after reading this thread :)) phrase:
    iść tam, gdzie król chodzi piechotą (to go there where the king goes by feet).
    Besides, iść na stronę (to go to the side) but at least I associate it rather with going to do 'business' somewhere outdoors [because there's no toilet around].

    As for naming the toilet itself my grandpa used to ask in public places where could he find dwa zera (two zeros).

    Indeed. But it might be interesting that in Polish the similar term has evolved a little differently. Wychodek means 'outhouse'. ;)
  32. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    In Turkish there are a few sayings:

    1.Ayak yolu (Foot way).
    2.Su dökmek (to pour water)
    3.Bira çıkmak istiyor (The beer wants out)
    4.100 Numara (Number 100)

    About the last one, there is a myth behind. I don't know if it's real though.

    In France, long time ago, in hotels, the room numbers would start with 01, then continued, 02, 03, 04... and there weren't toilets in hotel rooms. Instead there was one specific toilet for the entire hotel whose number was 00 = sans numéro.

    One night there was this big meeting with dinner. Ambassadors from all around the world attended, as well as journalists amoung whom there was a Turk :D

    So, this Turk (or Ottoman) was flirting with a French lady, who in the middle of the conversation told our guy that she needed to go to the ladies' room, saying: "Je vais au sans-numéro". Our Turk, with his limited French, interpreted this as "Cent-numéro"; and thought this was how the toilet was refered to in Europe...
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  33. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    If he was able to confuse sans-numéro with cent numéro, then his French was not that limited. ;)
  34. omerdurmus New Member

    in Turkish, "etin suyunu sıkmak" is used by man to urinate. in English its same as "bleed the lizard"
  35. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    However, it would be interesting to have the precise translation. Thanks !
  36. mugibil Senior Member

    "go in connection with a small/big necessity" (ходя по малка/голяма нужда).
    "to pour a [certain amount of] water" (да пусна една вода) (somewhat macho and not so much of a euphemism, since it actually sounds more vulgar than just saying "toilet")
    "go to the one place" (на едното място). Not too common, and another case of a euphemism sounding more vulgar than the real thing.
    Never heard of the "emperor going on foot" thing; I guess Bulgarians had no illusions about the Ottoman sultan going on foot anywhere. Or perhaps I just never happened to encounter the expression.
  37. Orlin Banned

    Ние използваме "Там, където царят ходи пеш", но според мен сравнително рядко.
  38. mugibil Senior Member

    Orlin says that it does exist in Bulgarian, although it's rare. I had no recollection of it, which is instructive - even a "small" language is so "large" that no individual native speaker knows everything.
  39. Orlin Banned

    Не мисля, че нашият език е толкова "малък" - доколкото знам, той е на 80.-90. място по брой хора, които го говорят, и определено е доста богат. Освен това няма никаква причина за комплекси от това, че е "малък".
    Извинявам се за отклонението от темата.
  40. mugibil Senior Member

    Това за "малкостта" е толкова относително, че няма смисъл да се обсъжда. Също и това за "богатството", в общи линии. Не съм казал, че има основание за комплекси (комплексите по дефиниция са ирационални и вредни, значи за тях никога няма основание :) ). Но мисля, че когато пишем по темата, би трябвало да е на английски, защото иначе 95 % от хората няма да разберат нищо.
  41. Favara Senior Member

    Catalan - Southern Val.
    (a') Dur els xiquets a la piscina - Taking the kids to the swimming pool.
    (a') Llevar-se un pes de sobre - Lit. "taking a weight off oneself", same meaning as English "taking a load/weight off one's mind".
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010
  42. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    Please don't exclude those poor 'Westerners' unable to follow you ! ;-)

    By the way: I may be allowed to bring in some poetry by W. H. Auden here, entitled "The Geography of the house", albeit only the first stanza:

    The Geography of the House

    (for Christopher Isherwood)

    Seated after breakfast
    In this white-tiled cabin
    Arabs call the House where
    Everybody goes,

    Even melancholics
    Raise a cheer to Mrs.
    Nature for the primal
    Pleasure She bestows.
  43. sean de lier

    sean de lier Member

    Manila, the Philippines
    Philippines (Tagalog, English)
    Defecation and its associated words are not considered vulgar at all in Tagalog, see this thread. Tae is the Tagalog word for feces, and from there we get tumae (defecate, actor focus, infinitive aspect) and nagtatae (having diarrhea). "Toilet", however, is not taihan, as suffixing would give us. Instead, we call the toilet with Spanish-derived words kubeta (from cubeta), kasilyas (from casillas), inidoro, or the English mispronunciations of bowl.

    Despite this, we do have euphemisms for feces: jebs, u-u (pronounced as spelled), ebak, ebs, poo-poo, poop (the latter from English). And from there, we derive words for defecation: jumebs, umebak, umebs, pumupoo-poo. These are usually used for humorous instances.
    We do have a "polite" term for feces, dumi (literaly, "waste"). But we could say tae all the same. The sentence Tae ka! does not have the same impact and vulgarity as the English "You are shit!"

  44. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    Tagalog: 1.) Palikuran 2.)Panabihan * Where is the CR? (nasaan ang Palikuran?) * I am going to use the CR. (Ako ay mananabihan) These two words are not commonly used by most Pilipino,but they are real Tagalog words for "Toilet".These are formal words.
  45. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    A general hint, Matapiris, if I may: in these threads we are very interested (and I am in particular) in the meanings of words. So what do these formal words mean ? Are they metaphors of some kind ?
  46. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    I apologise for quoting my self but I just remembered that in rural areas, the toilet was/is called «απόπατος» (a'popatos, m.), lit. place of departure, an ancient masculine noun which metaphorically stood for the ordure. Compound; «ἀπὸ» (ă'pŏ)--> off, away, asunder + verb «πατέω/πατῶ» (pă'tĕō [uncontracted]/pă'tō [contracted])--> tread, walk, trample. One had to "depart" in order to go to the toilet (which was a stool outside the house, usually in a separate building/cabin) in old times.
    «καμπινές» (kambi'nes, m.) or «καμπινέ» (kambi'ne, n.) is a French loan word (cabinet--> small cabin/room)
  47. 810senior

    810senior Senior Member

    In Japanese, we have a euphemism 花を摘む(nip a flower) which is mainly considered to be said by women.
  48. Nawaq Senior Member

    français (France)
    in French i don't think we really use euphemisms much, or maybe just in formal settings, for most of my life i've only known people reffering to that as simply as possible. toilet are toilettes, or in some cases WC (mosty written, people don"t really say it i think, it's pretty old...), if you want to say that you're going there you simply say it "e vais aux toilettes", many people also say "e reviens" (i'm coming back), it could mean that they're going to do something else important but for all i know around me it usually means "i'm going to the toilet, so i'll be back", if you really want to use euphemisms you can use "aller au petit coin" (going to the small corner lit.), mostly said by children and parents/adults talking to kids, toilets can be reffered (humourously) as "le trône" (the throne) etc. as for the other stuff (...) children talk use caca (when i think about that adults use it too in fact), popo (really only for kids this one), "la grosse commission" also and "la petite commission (urine)". i think there is a plentiful of expressions meaning to defecate here, one of my favorite (which i sadly never used) is démouler un cake "to unmold (?) a cake"...
  49. ilocas2 Banned

    porcelain throne
  50. francisgranada Senior Member

    I'd like to add kló, which is an euphemism of an euphemism (supposedly kló < klozet < water closet).

Share This Page