Anyone who has been in the military or has lived with a military man has heard the crude slang, ‘Crapper’ for ‘toilet’. “I gotta use the crapper.” “I’m in the crapper!” “I gotta take a crap”. You might be asking, Okay, Trish, why are you writing about toilets? Because I love the origin of words and the research is so much fun.
Did you know that there was a man named ‘Crapper’ and he was a plumber? Who owned a plumbing company in the 1800’s in England?
I was reading a wonderful mystery recently that gave credit to Thomas Crapper for the unique flower-patterned wash basin and the porcelain toilet fixture. I was certain that the slang ‘crapper’ that graces our language, must have originally referred to the inventor of the toilet, Mr. Thomas Crapper, Esq., plumber to kings! But, alas…..I was wrong…
The flushing toilet was invented by John Harrington in 1596. Joseph Bramah of Yorkshire patented the first practical water closet in England in 1778. George Jennings in 1852 also took out a patent for the flush-out toilet. In a time when bathroom fixtures were barely spoken of, Crapper heavily promoted sanitary plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom.
It has often been claimed in popular culture that the slang term for human bodily waste, “crap”, originated with Thomas Crapper because of his association with lavatories. The most common version of this story is that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw Crapper’s name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e. “I’m going to the crapper”. The word crap is actually of Middle English origin; and predates its application to bodily waste. Its most likely etymological origin is a combination of two older words, the Dutch krappen: to pluck off, cut off, or separate; and the Old French crappe: siftings, waste or rejected matter.
Thomas Crapper was a plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock (the little flush thingy that fills your toilet tank). He was noted for the quality of his products and received several royal warrants (highly sought after approval from the king).
In the 1880s, Prince Edward (later Edward VII) purchased his country seat of Sandringham House in Norfolk and asked Thomas Crapper & Co. to supply the plumbing, including thirty lavatories with cedarwood seats and enclosures, thus giving Crapper his first Royal Warrant. The firm received further warrants from Edward as king and from George V both as Prince of Wales and as king.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
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