why is the toilet called the loo

Not even close. Dear Word Detective:P The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson, page 80, reads:P Lady Louisa Anson, an intimidating guest at Viceregal Lodge in (Victorian) Ireland, was so rude to the Viceroy s children they stole the name card from her bedroom door and slid it into the holder on the door of the water closet. The lady was not amused when the maid persistently misdelivered her morning tea. P The story spread and from then on people needing a discreet reason to excuse themselves would announce they were off to visit Lady Loo or as it became known simply The Loo. P Could this be true? Roger Baker. Absolutely not. P I ve removed a few of the question marks you appended to your query for emphasis, but your incredulity is richly justified. P That story is nonsense. P I must say, however, that it is curiously attractive because it exhibits several of the key elements of a successful urban legend. P There s the presence of the aristocracy, always a winner. P More importantly, the snobby rich person gets her comeuppance at the hands of the downtrodden (albeit also rich) children she has wronged. P And the whole tale centers on the socially taboo subject of toilets. P No wonder the author was suckered by that story. That looks like an interesting book, by the way. P It s a portrait of the summer of 1911, three years before the start of World War I, focusing on the upper crust of British society, and written by the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. P But did guests at a Viceroy s mansion really have their rooms marked by little name cards on the door?


P How tacky. P I wonder if they also wore those Hi, My name is things at dinner. Loo is, of course, slang, primarily British, for the toilet, restroom or bathroom (or whatever your favorite euphemism might be). P The origin of loo has been hotly, and often quite creatively, debated since the word first appeared. P One popular theory suggests that servants in the 17th and 18th century, emptying chamberpots out the window, warned passersby in the street below with the shout Gardez l eau! (French for Watch out for the water! ), which was pronounced gardy loo in Britain and later shortened to loo. This story, however, like many of the more colorful origins proposed, runs aground on the fact that loo first appeared in print relatively recently, in 1922 (in the form of a joke in Ulysses by James Joyce: O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. Watercloset. ). P The 1922 vintage of loo also casts doubt on Nicolson s account, since it is set no later than 1911. There are two theories, however, that should be considered more likely. P The French euphemism lieux (pronounced loo, from lieux d aisance, meaning places of comfort or comfort stations ) might well have been picked up by British soldiers in France during World War I (1914-17). P The period between the war and the first appearance of loo in print would be about right for armed services slang to percolate into general usage. On the other hand, James Joyce may, in that quote from Ulysses, have been onto the actual origin of loo. P It may simply be a joke based on the use of Waterloo (as in Battle of Waterloo ) as a punning take on water closet.


P Such a linkage would make loo similar toP British rhyming slang, where a nonsense phrase rhyming with the real word ( plates of meat for feet ) is abbreviated and obscured still further by dropping the bit that actually rhymes (leaving us with the mysterious plates as slang for feet ). P Water closet thus, in this theory,P became Waterloo, and then just loo.
The reason why Brits call toilets БloosБ is one of the unsolved mysteries of etymology, however this is not for lack of trying! The word has been traced to rise into common usage around the 1920s, and plenty of theories exist surrounding the loo origins. Theory 1: Loo may be short for Waterloo, a common brand of cast iron toilet cisterns. One theory is that in the 1900s Waterloo iron cisterns were a common component of British outhouse toilets. This idea is almost wholly derived from James JoyceБs referral to the Waterloo toilet in his 1922 text,. Some etymologists suggest that the word loo may have been coined by Joyce, made in reference to a joke about the battle of Waterloo. Theory 2: Loo from Gardez lБeau A colourful theory that sadly seems to have little evidence behind it is that in the days of the chamber pot, before proper plumbing systems existed, French people would chuck their chamber pot contents out of windows accompanied by the considerate shout to passers by on the street of: Бgardez lБeau! Б meaning Бwatch out for the water! Б. The theory goes that Бgardez lБeauБ became mispronounced by Brits and corrupted to gardyloo, and eventually loo.


The expression gardyloo seems to have been in circulation in some parts of Britain. However, considering that the word loo was first documented many years after plumbing arose, and long after the phrases Бgardez lБeauБ and gardyloo were used, it seems unlikely that this was the origin of our modern word, loo. Theory 3: Loo from a ShipБs Looward side A shipБs leeward side is the opposite side to the windward side, where if you spat or took a leak off the side, your creations would successfully leap off the leeward side and into the sea as opposed to leaping back at you. The theory is that people relieved themselves from the leeward side so that it eventually came to be synonymous with the toilet side of the ship. Leeward was sometimes pronounced looward, which was shortened to loo. This theory seems slightly dubious as most ships had a toilet at a place called the БshipБs headБ at the bow of the ship, so why would they also use the leeward side? Theory 4: Loo from lieux d aisances or le lieu The French phrase, lieux d aisances translates to: place of easement; a euphemism for toilet. Another possible euphemism was calling it Бle lieuБ, the place. These phrases may have been picked up in France by British soldiers in World War I. The phrase may have been shortened to БlieuxБ and pronounced БlooБ. The date of this theory fits with the origin of the phrase around the early 1900s but there is little evidence in current existence to support this theory. Related Products

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