Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

How to soften a rude subject

NEW READERS: Please read the third comment before the post itself. Just to spare my blushes.
I am a connoisseur – though not an intentional user – of euphemisms. We call it a loo while Americans call it a can. That says a lot; genteel plays hard-nose. Ironically the American seeing someone (vs going out with in the UK) hints at an occasional Yankee preference for gentility.

My brother (DIY perfectionist and good cook) has a caravan. Now he’s completed the Land’s End to John O’Groats walk he is taking it to Scotland as a base to resume his assault on the Munros (peaks over 3000 ft). There are some 240 and he’s down to the last twenty.

To limber-up he was in the Brecon Beacons and we had lunch. Afterwards, driven by my taste for euphemism, I inspected his caravan. In particular the technology of the bathroom – the middle-class US alternative for can. Fanatical design effort ensures that when he discharges accumulated waste from his temporary home the caravanner only handles advanced and utterly hygienic products of the plastics industry.

This system is called a cassette. Think of the images that evokes and you’ll agree with me it’s a perfect euphemism.

4 comments:

marja-leena said...

Cassette's other meaning is new to me!

I'm always amazed at how many different words for the same thing there are in the English-speaking world, and they aren't always understood by every speaker. I'd love to learn if the English language is the most 'guilty' of any other - my suspicion.

Julia said...

Growing up in the US South, I never heard a WC called a can. Favored labels down South - powder room and ladies' room, rest room if you were feeling modern. Guys used the facilities.

Barrett Bonden said...

Aaarghhhh! Woke up at 3 am realising the whole of the first paragraph was logically indefensible. The UK has some much coarser, harder-nosed variants than loo. And, as Julia points out, powder room, etc, are infinitely more euphemistic (I always liked rest room which concentrates on results rather than reasons). I had it in mind to rush out early and rewrite the first para but I was too late. Sometimes Marja-Leena's nine-hour time lag means she reads UK posts while we are still sleeping. Other people in the UK simply get up before I do. As to M-J's point about guilt I think there's no question England leads the world in this. Though the US runs us close.

Lucy said...

Heard a tale about someone rather over-awed in a posh house, who asked to be shown the cloakroom, thinking this was the required linguistic register. Her rather puzzled hosts directed her to... the cloakroom.