The ‘loo’, the ‘throne room’, the lavatory, the toilet, ‘powder room’, or the ‘WC’. There are probably a host of other names for that essential room in a building coined by people who wish to sound posh, or who are too shy to say out loud where they are going. WC is an abbreviation for ‘water closet’ which essentially refers to a flushing toilet. ‘Closet’ implies that this will be found in a rather small room set aside for the purpose of using the toilet in private.

The flushing toilet was invented in England during the 1870s once people began to realise that diseases were being spread by unsanitary conditions. The design was tweaked by Thomas Twyford, who created an all-in-one device made from china. Many people take WCs for granted these days even though there are communities all over the world who still have to manage without.

So much for the history. I was sorting through some papers this evening when I came across this story in an e-mail I received last year. Even though you may have read it before, I think it is worth sharing:

An English lady of title, who was suffering from a nervous breakdown, had been recommended to stay in a small German village in the mountains. She went there to inquire about suitable lodgings and, having no knowledge of the language, secured the assistance of the local schoolmaster who knew some English. Having found that she had omitted to ask if there was a WC near the house, she wrote to the schoolmaster for particulars. He had never come across this abbreviation before and so he consulted the local pastor, who also knew a little English. Together they reached the conclusion that the lady in question was an ardent churchgoer and wanted to know where the Wesleyan Church was situated. This was the reply she received:

Dear Madam

In reply to your letter of inquiry, I have the honour to inform you that the WC is situated in a pine forest amid lovely scenery some seven miles from your lodging. It is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. This is unfortunate for you if you are in the habit of going regularly. But, you will be glad to know that an ever increasing number of people take their lunch with them and make a day of it. As there are many visitors in the summer, I advise your ladyship to go early. The accommodation is good as there are about sixty seats. Should you at any time be late, there is plenty of standing room. I would especially advise your ladyship to pay a visit on Thursdays as there is an organ accompaniment. The structure of the building is such that even the most delicate sounds are clearly audible Hymn sheets are provided at the door. I should be delighted to reserve the best seat for your ladyship and be present to conduct you myself.

I have the honour to be Madam,

Your obedient servant

P.S. My wife has not been for eight months and it pains us very much, but it is such a long way off.

The featured image of a potato bush has nothing to do with a WC but serves to ‘pretty up’ this entry.


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