“France is a place where the money falls apart in your hands but you can’t tear the toilet paper.” -Billy Wilder
The Dutch have a fascinating bathroom system. Many houses have two rooms for the bathroom. One tiny room with have just a toilet and a very small sink and a second room with have a shower (and maybe also a sink and mirror.)
That little room with the toilet? They call “the toilet.”
And, as it turns out, I think toilet is the worst word in the English language.
I’m not the only one to notice this horrendous language abuse. Linguist Lynne Murphy was interviewed on PRI’s The World and discussed the British (and European) preference for the word toilet to describe what we, in the US, would call a bathroom or a restroom.
I’ve been railing against the use of the word toilet since I arrived in the Netherlands. For the most part, I’m willing to adopt the local terminology. I’ve transitioned to referring to a line as a “queue,” (since their English is more Britishy) but I simply can’t bring myself to using the world toilet. Toilets are gross. Stating that you’re going to the toilet announces to everyone that you intend on preforming some bodily function. I find the word unpleasant and I’m resolved to not use it.
As it turns out, I’m not the only American expat with this problem. John Cellack, who writes the An American In Amsterdam blog, recently discussed his issue with the toilet/bathroom situation. His 7-year-old son proposed referring to the room with the toilet as the “p-room.” For obvious reasons, I don’t like that solution either. Or 7-year-olds, in general.
I am continuing my mission to convert the Dutch to the much more pleasant and ambiguous “bathroom.”