Monday, March 24, 2014

Word of the Week - Toilet

Last night I ate an orange. (I know--groundbreaking news, right? LOL) At which point Xoe came in and exclaimed over how lovely my hands smelled. Which prompted her cheeky question of, "Mommy, did you get new cologne?"

I, naturally, said, "Now, now. These days cologne is reserved for what men wear, and women wear perfume." And thought, Mostly. Although it used to be...

While I was thinking thus (ahem, LOL), my hubby thought it would be funny to say I was wearing "eau de toilette."

Need it even be mentioned that our darling daughter dissolved into laughter and, upon getting the translation of "toilet water," asked why in the world perfume was ever called that?

I then had the pleasure of educating husband and daughter both. ;-) Granted, I was halfway making it up. But I was right. So there.
Toilet of Venus (no, not THAT kind!) by Simon Vouet
circa 1628-1639

The English toilet has pretty much followed the evolution of the French toilette through the ages. First, it meant "cover or bag for clothes." So, a garment bag. This first meaning, which made its way to English in the 1530s, was from the French toil--cloth. In the late 1600s, it took on the meaning of "the act or process of dressing." Another 120 years passed, and it became the word for the room in which you do that dressing, especially one with a lavatory attached. Then, and only then--70 some years later, in 1895--did it get attached to the lavatory and its fixtures instead of the dressing room. And yes, that euphemism is also an Americanism.

So really, it's a very lovely word that we first used to pretty-up a not-so-lovely room...and by which we managed to make into an ugly word. Sigh. Sorry, toilette!

3 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the vocabulary lesson! I remember, when I was little that I had some eau de toilette, which I thought was hilarious! That was in the 1950's,

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  2. Wow! This was really interesting and actually something I wondered about. Thanks for the post! :)

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  3. I'm sure your daughter did get quite a few giggles in at that one! :)

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