Sunday, November 13, 2005


I was discussing euphemisms for ‘going to the lavatory’ with a French teacher of English. I told him one that I had heard on the radio. There was a brief pause as he considered each word in turn and then collectively and then he roared with laughter.
‘I am just going upstairs to see an old friend off to the coast’.
I wonder how many French students on an exchange visit to the UK will try that one on their hosts and with what results.
I will confess and although you don’t want to hear it I am going to write it anyway that whenever I visit the said premises I imagine myself to be at some other location but not for the same purpose.
The curious thing is that this is almost invariably at the conjunction of the Thames and the River Kennet, failing that a steeped walled mooring at Goring on Thames.
Finally just to complete this little trilogy Brockley County Grammar School in the early 1960’s had a Geography teacher called Mieux whose favourite punishment was to give out ‘lines’
‘Silence is golden it is only monkeys that chatter’.
Rarely he would come into contact with foul language from the boys, language which these days would probably serve to win for the proposer a grade C in English O level.
Mieux’s, contemptuous would say ‘I will not tolerate lavatory language’. This was felt by us as a powerful rebuke as if we ourselves had been sworn at.
It only occurs to me today all these years later that there is no necessary connection between lavatories and foul language and this is and was a very odd phrase to use.
photograph of Goring Lock courtesy of Jim Shead - see his waterway site

1 comment:

icedink said...

What goes around comes around...a teacher today may conceivably use some form of rebuke such as: 'shut that potty mouth, boy'. the connection between foul language and the lavatory, i imagine, is that both are seen as dirty.