Are you a sitzpinkler or a stander? If you are scratching your head at this question, maybe the title of this post will give you a clue: sitzpinkler is the descriptive German word for a man who sits down to pee. Apparently 62% of German men do this – at home anyway; if public loos in Germany are anything like the men’s toilets are reputed to be in this country, it would be most unwise to sitzpinkle when out. Many British men think sitting down is unmanly, and there is some sympathy for this attitude among the 38% of standers in Germany – a sitzpinkler is sometimes used as a term of abuse about someone, roughly translating as ‘a bit of a wuss’
Men sitting to pee is a good thing according to many doctors – it enables them to empty their bladder more completely than when standing up, thus mitigating the effects of any prostrate problem; and you are less likely to drop your phone down the pan if your bum is acting as a lid.
Cleaners approve too – less mess on the floor and the toilet seat. You can even buy a WC-Geist from German supermarkets. Translating as ‘toilet ghost,’ it is a device that orders you to SIT DOWN!!! if you dare to lift the seat. It comes in a choice of voices – I understand Angela Merkel’s voice is a best seller.
But what is going to happen if men sitting down to pee in public toilets takes off in this country? The advantage with a urinal is that you simply point and splash and it takes half the time that it does for women – and that’s without women often having to take one or two children in with them, or accompanying an older companion who seems to take forever. It is for good reason that employers and local authorities are supposed to allow more cubicles for women (and why a current trend to turn women’s toilets (but not men’s) into ‘gender neutral’ spaces can have such a negative effect on women’s convenience (pun intended). It is also probably illegal under the Equality Act 2010, and various regulations. Even so, women still seem to have to queue round the block, where as the men are just in and out in a flash.
Many towns and cities are closing public toilets because of the cost of their upkeep. But the fewer facilities there are the fewer people come into town centres to spend money, so it is a rather short-sighted policy. In my home city, Coventry UK, a group of women (and one man) have been researching the toilet provision and inviting comments, so as to petition for improved facilities for all potential visitors. If you are local, you may want to have your say on the survey too – or attend the public event in the city centre on 14th June 10-12 noon (contact me for the exact location).
NB: Loo is an informal yet polite way of referring to the toilet (unlike bog, which is both informal and impolite). It comes from the French phrase ‘guardez l’eau!’ (‘mind the water!’) a warning shouted by a maid as she emptied the chamber pots out of the bedroom window.
Many of the words describing where we urinate are water or washing based – polite euphemisms for other, much cruder terms.
Such euphemisms include toilet, from medieval French la toilette the word for the cloth used when shaving or dressing hair. Lavatory is from the Latin lavare, to wash, as is latrine. And Americans ask to go to the bathroom when they need a pee.
Once my father, overcome with an unusual fit of politeness at a distant relative’s rather frugal cottage, asked if he could ‘wash his hands.’ The old lady took him at his word and led him to the one cold tap in the house, standing over him whilst he solemnly washed and dried his hands. It made his need to pee even more pressing, but he didn’t dare ask to use the loo/toilet/ lavatory/ bog (and there was no bathroom), For a man who found fart jokes funny until the day he died, I found this attack of bashfulness about needing the loo highly amusing, and showed a lamentable lack of sympathy for his discomfort.
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