Taking the myth . . .

7 Feb

BIG Bernard is sifting through emails on the newsdesk. He suddenly recoils in alarm.

Big Bernard, to the subs desk: “Hey. We’ve had a complaint about the public toilet competition headline in this morning’s paper. Listen to this:

“Dear Sir. May I draw your attention to the story about Harrogate public toilets winning the lavatory of the year award and record my utter revulsion and disgust at the headline: ‘Public loo is top of the plops’. No doubt this gave some of your intellectually-challenged staff a chuckle – perhaps all of them – but it is yet another example of your publication descending into the gutter of popular media and immersing itself in filth.”

Leek Man: “Tell him to get a life.”

Big Bernard, thrusting back his chair: “Hey. Should I write back and say our original suggestion for a headline was: ‘Town loo is cracking crapper’? But we changed it because although crapper is a genuine word – coming from Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the Thunderbox flush toilet and the man who gave his name to crap – we took into account our ill-educated, intellectually-challenged readers getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and being unnecessarily offended. So the headline that actually appeared was in fact a genuine attempt to please the largely ignorant public and raise a smile on a dull February morning with some wittily-crafted words. Shall I do that?”

Leek Man: “It would certainly be one avenue to go down.”

Big Bernard: “Or should I just point out that ‘plop’ is not an offensive word?”

Leek Man: “That would, I think, be the safest option.”

Meanwhile, as this conversation is taking place, I consult Wikipedia – the destroyer of false truths and urban myths – which has discharged into the sea of polluted knowledge the following nugget:

Thomas Crapper: Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock.

It has often been claimed in popular culture that the slang term for human bodily waste, “crap”, originated with Thomas Crapper because of his association with lavatories. The most common version of this story is that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw his name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e., “I’m going to the crapper”. The word crap is actually of Middle English origin.

Which just goes to prove something or other. But I’m not sure what.

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