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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Holy Crapper! - 6 Things You Didn't Know About Toilets

  We don't put much thought to the places we relieve ourselves - sometimes it's a tree, or an alley, or even a porta-potty, but most often the arena of choice for our necessary yet unspeakable functions is a toilet. Because I have a scatological mind and a thirst for peculiar strands of information, I am going to share with you a few things that I did not know about the Sacred Throne before I researched them. 


#1 : The Flush Toilet Was Invented About 4500 Years Ago

   In approx. 2600 BCE, the flush toilet was in such common usage in the Indus Valley (what is now Pakistan) that nearly every home had a flush toilet connected to a fairly modern sewer system.  They had domesticated crops and animals , fabulous artwork, boats,and cities with governments that most today would envy. 
  Various societies obsessed with hygiene utilized similar technology for around 3000 years, including the Romans. When the lauded empire fell , the toilet vanished into oblivion like the remains of your late-night run to Taco Bell.

#2 : Crap Has Nothing To Do With Crapaud

   Crapaud is the french word for a toad as opposed to a frog, or sometimes an ostentatious person. It is not pronounced the way it is spelled either. While it is indeed possible that a few crapaud have been flushed, it's hopefully not a common occurrence. 
  The word "crap" may have origins in the Dutch word "krappen", meaning "to break off" or the low German "krape" meaning a foul, inedible fish. 

#3 Thomas Crapper Was A Real Dude, But He Didn't Invent The Toilet

  Thomas Crapper was also a real plumber, with a career spanning a whopping 43 years . He was indeed plumber to many of England's rich and powerful, and the manhole covers at Westminster Abbey still bear his name . contrary to legend, he was never knighted and therefore was not "Sir" Thomas Crapper.
  While Mr. Crapper did not invent the toilet, nor the term "crap", the term "crapper" does originate with this drainage whiz. During the First World War, North American soldiers noticed the "Crapper" name on the toilets, and like we did with Xerox photocopiers, began calling all toilets Crappers. Thusly, for those anal retentive grammar types, the "C" at the beginning of Crapper should be capitalized like the name of the unique capitalist whose name the term came from.

#4 The Modern Toilet Has Its Origins in Islam

  When Islamic scholar al-Jazari wasn't studying , he invented hundreds of devices, including the predecessors to robots, the crankshaft, mechanical gears and controls, and the flush mechanism for the toilet. The early muslims as well as the new wash hands with frequency, thusly al-Jazari invented a flushing sink. The user would pull a lever and the sink would drain and an automaton would replenish the basin. Some later models even had humanoid servants that would offer soap and towels. It wasn't until several centuries later that this genius was applied to the toilet. 

#5 But The Direction Of The Swirl Changes When You Cross The Equator, Right?

   This is absolutely INCORRECT. It is commonly thought and even taught in some science classes that a Crapper flushes with a counter-clockwise swirl in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the south. The Simpsons and your science teacher are wrong here - the Coriolis effect is too weak to have an effect on something as tiny as a toilet. I had to find out about this because I live in Canada, which is clearly north of most of you and my toilet flushes clockwise. I thought that there may be some environmental factor that causes this, but it's just not true. The swirl direction is determined by the direction the water jets are pointed and it just happens that most toilets made in North America flush counter-clockwise and the one in my house deviates from the norm. To have a toilet that flushes "funny", you don't need to be a master of physics or attach a funny contraption, you just need a toilet made with different rim jets.

#6 There IS A Reason For This Sign

  Many people chuckle when they are in foreign countries and see restroom signs directing people to sit. After all, people only squat if they are using a hole in the ground, right? 
Not exactly. 
 In many parts of the world , including some very modern nations, the squat toilet is the norm. From Russian railway stations to Thai hotels, they are all over the place. Though rare, they can even be found on our side of the pond. Even better, there are the inclusive dual-use thrones where one can sit or squat based on preference. 

  I hope you enjoyed this snippet as there may well be a second edition since I have discovered tons of other things that I didn't know about the vessel we all take for granted.

  Have a great day!

1 comment:

  1. Nicola Rayner/jinx17July 30, 2010 at 2:29 AM

    Well, I think we have a special toilet, cause after the above toilet segment, I just had to check and ours doesn't flush either way. It just goes straight down like a toilet should! lol!


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