Monday, February 4, 2008

Asking About the Loo

No matter where you travel, you will eat, drink, and go to the bathroom.

I've written this articlehelp you avoid embarrassment when attending to this necessary function, and also to help you avoid that so-very-common of travelers' afflictions, diarrhea. Just a little preparation can save you from hours of anxiety and days of gastrointestinal upset.

Even if you find people in your host company who speak English, there is a great deal of room for embarrassment when inquiring about the toilet. In the United Kingdom, for instance, using the American euphemism "BM" for bowel movement is likely to be met with a quizzical expression.

Similarly, Americans (and to a lesser extent, Canadians) may find themselves at a loss to make polite inquiries about restroom facilities.

The English language vocabulary for toilets is vast: bathroom, rest room, cloakroom, lavatory, WC, privy, latrine, john, bog, crapper, thunder box, smallest room, wee room, the necessary, the necessary room, and the loo. Excuses to relieve oneself may be expressed as washing hands, viewing the plumbs, taking a dump, picking a daisy, having a poo, taking a dump, or simply being excused.

Other languages have similar euphemisms. In general, local expressions can be understood in terms of the limitations of plumbing.

In much of Latin America and in Southeast Asia, for example, toilets drain slowly. You may be directed to one place if you need to defecate ("big water" in many languages) and to another if you need to urinate ("small water").

And you'll likely want to avoid having to use any vocabulary regarding the disposal of toilet paper.In many countries you will find a covered trash can next to the toilet. When the plumbing cannot accommodate toilet paper, the polite guest places used paper in the covered receptacle. Failure to do so can incapacitate the toilet for the next user, requiring your host to use a plunger and a mop.

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