Crap?

Posted on March 2, 2010

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I’ve just come from the crapper, where I had a nice crap before flushing said crap down the sewer.

Hands up who thinks I’m being rude? Well, me old china plates, you’d be wrong.

Popular urban myth has it that one Thomas Crapper invented the modern toilet or lavatory. That is incorrect. The flush lavatory, properly called the Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer was patented in 1819 by Albert Giblin who may have been an employee of Crapper’s. And other forms of the toilet with running water had been appearing since the late 18th century. So why is Thomas’s name associated with the toilet?

Crapper’s plumbing business installed a range of toilets with the system proudly bearing the name ‘Crapper’s Valveless Waste Preventer’. These were installed far and wide so it is not surprising that crap and crapper became part of the English language.

There is some debate about whether or not Thomas was responsible for the word crap entering common English usage. However it is apparently indisputable that the word did not appear before his time with the first appearance of the word crap as either a noun or verb not appearing in a dictionary until 1859, when John C. Hotten’s A dictionary of modern slang, cant, and vulgar words included the definition: “Crapping case, a privy, or water-closet.”

The name of common products entering the English language as common verbs and nouns is not unusual. In Australia for example, we tend to shine our shoes with ‘nugget’ rather than boot polish – Nugget was an old-time brand of boot polish. While there are similar sounding words to crap in other languages which have in their time influenced the evolution of modern English, such as Dutch (krappe), German (krape) and the Old English ‘crappe’, none of those words have any actual relation to defecation or excrement. Consequently, it is a pretty safe bet that in referring to crap, crapping and the crapper, we are merely reflecting the popularity of the device installed by Thomas Crapper and his plumbing business.

Still think I was being rude? Then sod off. 🙂

Here endeth the lesson.

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