The Do-nut in Grannie’s Greenhouse 16


Unlike Otto Titzling, or even Herr Bustenhalter, the mythical inventors of the modern bra, Thomas Crapper was a real person; a plumber who opened a London bathroom fittings factory and warehouse in 1861. The quality of his porcelain ware gained him recognition in a rapidly modernising society. But it was the future Edward VI who cemented his reputation by asking him to fit the bathrooms in the newly purchased Sandringham House.

The Victorians were nothing if not social climbers and crashing snobs. What was good enough for the future king was good enough for them. Although having recently learned about the copious amounts of red meat in the upper class Edwardian diet, I think the certified robustness of Mr Crapper’s facilities must have also played a part in the choice.

Thomas Crapper is often credited with inventing the toilet.

Not true.

The lavatory starts with the Romans, who had communal public toilets, but not for the riff raff, built over natural streams that emptied into the sewer. Senators would send their slaves to keep their place and warm up the marble seat. Medieval castles had indoor toilets, chutes that emptied outside. Urine was not wasted. Laundrymen called fullers had large pots outside their premises to relieve yourself and used the ammonia to bleach your clothes.

A water closet was invented in 1596 by John Harington. In 1778 Yorkshireman Joseph Bramah patented the first practical water closet. George Jennings in 1852 took out a patent for a flush-out toilet.

No invention comes from thin air. The idea of containing the smells under water was already used with chamber pots – I mean who wants to sleep with that in the room. Chamber pots were not usually kept under the bed but in closets, originally a chest with separate lid, concealing the seat.

Thomas Crapper’s plumbing skills did improve the toilet by adding a ballcock to automatically regulate the water level in the cistern.

His sanitary ware was stamped Crapper and Company. This was believed to have given rise to the euphemistic term for a ‘pooh’ or ‘poop’ when American GIs stationed  in the UK during the World Wars took to referring to the restroom as the ‘crapper’ after seeing his name stamped on the facilities. It later gave rise to ‘taking a crap’.

Unfortunately it’s not true.

Krappen is an old Germanic word, crappe in old French, meaning to reject or waste. Shit is another old German word meaning dung. Originally it was not rude. A good example of how words only have the value we put on them and change over time. As words acquire rudeness… another good example, rude just means hearty or peasant-like… we look for polite substitutes or euphemisms.

Virtually every word describing our bodily functions is a euphemism.

Pooh      A 16th century expression of distaste as in… He pooh-poohed the idea

Poop     From poupen describing the sound of a fart

Fart      Ok, I’ll give you that one; it means exactly what you think

Bathroom      Where is the bath?

Restroom       Sit down and take the weight off

Loo       Might be from Gardyloo: called out when people emptied chamber pots into the street (Regardez l’eau – look out for the water)

Toilet  Originally a headscarf; then the cloth over a lady’s dressing table; then her morning ritual of hairdressing and makeup; to finally… 

Now that one kinda makes sense when you look at it that way.

16 thoughts on “The Do-nut in Grannie’s Greenhouse

  1. Reply patriciaruthsusan Apr 11,2017 1:42 pm

    This post is both informative and humorous. Thanks, Paul for sharing. 😀 — Suzanne

  2. Reply Bette A. Stevens Mar 25,2017 9:16 pm

    An enjoyable and informative read! 🙂

  3. Reply Mary Smith Mar 20,2017 10:21 pm

    Oh, you’ve dispelled my believe in how the expression ‘taking a crap’ came into use!

    • Reply Paul Mar 21,2017 12:56 am

      Mary, I’m still trying to figure out how a dice game got called craps! I suppose it is too much to think it started with soldiers in communal latrines… tempting though!

  4. Reply Judy Martin Mar 20,2017 7:50 pm

    Oh, I disagree Paul, I love a bit of toilet humour! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 20th March 2017 – Paul Andruss, Staci Troilo, Robert Marston Fanney, Annette Clark and Ed. A. Murray | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  6. Reply Shehanne Moore Mar 19,2017 2:12 pm

    Actually very funny but wonderfully informative

  7. Reply Sally Cronin Mar 19,2017 9:54 am

    Finally taken some time to chase up posts from the week Paul. Been lost in the world of fairies… and lepersians along with Thomas the Rhymer. Up to your usual high standards an in the Blogger Monday.. catch up soon. XX

  8. Reply Robbie Cheadle Mar 14,2017 4:09 am

    A very good and humorous post, Paul. You certainly demystified some myths. Have a lovely day!

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