For my American readers, the British, Australians and New Zealanders refer to the toilet as the loo. I decided to check out why it’s colloquially known as the loo. According to the online etymology dictionary, loo is possibly a pun on Waterloo, based on water closet. James Joyce’s wonderful 1922 novel, Ulysses, contains the following: “O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. Water closet.”
I dug a bit further and found alternative origins for the term – some are quite humorous:
- Gardez l’eau! French for “mind the water”, which was shouted as chamber pots were emptied into the streets from upper-storey windows (eew!);
- Lady Louisa Anson was a 19th Century noblewoman. Apparently, her sons took placed her name card on the door of the guest lavatory (wonder if said sons were disinherited?);
- Louvre – slatted screens that were used for a makeshift lavatory;
- A misreading of room number 100, which was a common European toilet location;
- Portable night pots were carried in ladies’ muffs (eew!) and were called bourdalous.
Whatever the origin of the term loo, I came across a fabulous pink loo in Malaysia – at the Sunway Pyramid shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you want to get lost in an amazing shopping centre, this is the place to go. It’s divided into various themes with Marrakesh and Asian Avenue being my two favourites. Marrakesh is obviously set out with souk-style stalls, whilst Asian Avenue reminded me of Japanese streets with lots of funky shops.
Anyway. The ladies I visited was painted in hot pink and had soft, muted lighting. Everything was hot pink with fabulous gilded mirrors. Sooooooo much more visually interesting than the usual dull ladies’ loos, which are normally painted with white walls and grey or sometimes red toilet doors. In Australia, it used to irritate the bejesus out of me – some loos were bathed in a hideous flourescent blue light. The reason? The blue light makes it more difficult for drug users to find the red veins to inject their stupid selves.
I attended a colour therapy course many years ago. I seem to recall that pink is associated with relaxation, tenderness, nurturing, caring and the feminine energy.