Daily Archives: April 28, 2009

What’s in a Name: Toilet Paper

The other day I went to Safeway to buy toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper; teepee, ass wipe, etc. Most people I know call it toilet paper. Don’t you?

Now I know that Canadians (or Americans, depending on perspective) have different or odd names for things. How many times did I get confused looks in Seattle when I asked for a washroom? “You mean to do laundry?” No, to go pee. Restroom, bathroom, water closet, WC. In past eras houses had two rooms, one with the toilet, the water closet (WC), and the tub in the other. They may have started first with wash basins and then moved to sinks. So…bathroom and washroom? Except that the room with the tub had the sink too. Friends of mine have renovated their old house to have a sink in each room.

So, we’ve established there’s some confusion on what to call the rooms that we get rid of waste and dirt in. But in Safeway, what do you suppose they call toilet paper in the row with paper towels and tissues? They call it bath tissues. Bath tissues.  Geeze. Am I supposed to get out of the bath or shower and do a cheap remake of the mummy, drying myself off on swaths of toilet paper? It would make the paper companies happy I’m sure. But then I’d be picking little bits off of my body and find leftovers in odd places and be sweeping it from the floor for a billion years, or until the next shower. 

Sure, one can argue that toilet paper isn’t any more accurate because you don’t wipe the toilet with it and it’s not paper. It’s finer than paper and tissue like. Toilet tissue? But you do drop it in the toilet. So maybe in the way that advertising never has, we should name things exactly for what they are. Crap catchers, bum wipes, crotch cleaners. Wouldn’t you love to see a Safeway aisle with those names. Slang does have its purpose.

Yet, such terms would be offensive to many, though probably get smiles from others. So we come up with the euphemism, bath tissues, as far away from toilet paper as possible yet all in the same room, the bathroom. Some new houses have gone back to those split rooms, finding it more convenient to have the shower/bath separated from the toilet. And many houses will have just a toilet (WC) off of the living room or kitchen.

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