One-Year MarkPosted: February 21, 2013
Having documented twenty-six jazz clubs housing more than twice the number of toilets and twenty-six translations of “Where’s the restroom?” in languages from Arabic to Zulu, we celebrate the one-year mark of the launch of JAZZ TOILET. For the year ahead, I am cutting back on the TUESDAY TOILET TALKS to just the second Tuesday of each month. Please stay tuned as I will be introducing new issues and staff writer Ken® will be continuing with the FRIDAY FLUSH.
For the occasion, my sister mailed me a 2013 calendar featuring “Toilets of the World.” I look forward to filling the grids with deadlines and activities, starting with a celebratory lunch today for Ken® and men’s room correspondent KMac. Now, I leave you with words of wisdom inscribed within my new calendar (underlines are my own).
Toilets of the World (Sian James and Morna E. Gregory)
Loo, john, dunny, bathroom, lavatory, outhouse, WC, longdrop, commodities, powder room, crapper, throne, porcelain god, washroom, toilet, can, urinal, facilities, pisser, comfort station, head, water-closet, little boys’ room, shitter, pot, nettie, bog …
So many names refer to the same mundane object. This boundless terminology reflects human beings’ natural fascination with the toilet. Taboo subjects that have provoked deep interest throughout the ages are known by many names—consider death, drugs and copulation, to name a few. Terms for the toilet all describe the smallest room in the house, in the backyard, on the boat, or elsewhere. This list is from English alone. To compile a complete list of toilet terminology from all languages would fill volumes. Regardless of how it is referred to, the universal aspect cannot be denied: every human being on earth uses the toilet.
Why toilets? The subject is not nearly as frivolous as it may appear at first glance. Toilets are bay windows with a view onto a given population. The term toiletology has yet to be coined, although the study of toilets provides a cultural and sociological analysis of the people who occupy different regions throughout the world. The variety of toilets in different countries is astounding. Toilets often (though not always) reflect the development of a given country or region via design, placement, material and mechanics. Aren’t toilets the same everywhere? In a limited geographical area, perhaps. On an international scale, toilets are very, very different.
The use of the toilet transcends all race, religion, age and social class. From the most impoverished to the highest royalty, each and every one of us bows to the basics of bodily function. Whether one does so in a ditch or on a jewel-encrusted throne, the result is the same. The president, the cashier, the supermodel, the writer, the lawyer and the farmer all find themselves subject to this most basic of acts. It is physical gratification from the earliest age on up. The act is philosophical—emptying the body empties the mind as well. For how many busy and stressed people is this moment one of the few instants of solitary relief, privacy and contemplation in an otherwise hectic day? Many people confess to having great thoughts, ideas and insights while seated on the toilet.
Through the pages that follow, take a fascinating and explicit voyage through societies around the globe. A deeper cultural understanding of the world is within reach via the most raw and honest tattle-tale of human civilization: the toilet.