Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Important Room

A euphemism is a nice word for a concept that society does not want to talk about openly, even if it must.  Examples of this are dying, often known as passing away, among others (cf. Monty Python’s Dead Parrot routine for the best exposition on the subject), cancer, otherwise known as a terminal disease, and sex with its hundreds of synonyms.
One peculiar area where most societies prefer to shade the truth a bit is that room in the house or outside of it where people carry out those important bodily functions sometimes known mathematically as 1 and 2 or dimensionally as big and small.  In English, it can be called a restroom, where I suppose some people actually rest, a loo, derived from an old French term, a WC, standing for water closet, which at least is always present in the room, a toilet, a word emphasizing the clean afterwards of the experience, the bathroom, which often does not include a bath especially in small apartments, and the ladies and mens room for restaurant, a possibly justified euphemism.  I would agree that it is much more elegant to ask the waiter where the ladies room is as compared to ask where to go pee.
French shares la toilette, la salle de bain, and WC with the English.  However, it adds the charming “le petit coin” meaning the small corner.   Given the size of many if not most French toilettes, the description is precise in terms of area if not purpose. 
Hebrew has its own terms:   השירותים (hashirutim) meaning “the services”; בית שימוש (beit shimush) literally signifying “the house of use”; and finally המקום החשוב (hamakom hahashuv), which can be translated as “the important place.”  The latter may not be specific in function, but it is accurate in terms of status. 
So, I will end this post to allow you to go to, you know, the important place.

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