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Scottish – Shit Scared

Gardyloo – a strange expression to scare away people from incoming bucket filled with shit.

In my recent visit to Scotland, our tour guide gave an intere(disgu)sting story, the way you want to take it. It was not about the famous Nobel laureates or the many discoveries which the Scottish are associated with, its rather about a tradition which is not very eye pleasing.

On our way to Edinburgh castle, there were old buildings on each side of the road, still reminding us of its glorious past.  While narrating  some intellectual stories, suddenly our guide shouted in her Scottish accent – “Gardyloo” “Gardyloo” – to our surprise this strange expression meant – get out of the loo’s way . Back in the 17th century,  people used to throw away the human waste (shit) out on the streets – simultaneously shouting this phrase. The process was very simple, the households would simply throw the buckets full of shitload on the street and the phrase was used to beware the passersby on the street. So as a passerby, one would really need to keep his/her ears on – so as to not literally get dumped with shit.

Gardyloo is derived from French “guardez l’eau”, which means to keep an eye on the water. This, in my opinion, doesn’t seem justified enough since firstly, “that” was not just water and secondly, the sight was not definitely not as pleasant as one can really keep watching. It also seems like the word “loo” also originated out of this expression.

While the debate still rages on who invented the toilets, it is no surprise that in that battle, an Edinburgh born gentleman has the claim to fame.

Alexhander Cumming, who is credited as the first person to patent for the S shaped plumbing in 1775, which laid the foundations for the modern flush toilet. The S shape bending acted as a trap that uses a path to capture water to prevent gases from entering homes, while allowing waste to pass through.

“Gardyloo” was used until the 1930s when indoor toilets came to all the Scottish homes, relieving the poor pedestrians of the misery of this horrible experience.


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