Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Post in Which We Finally Manage to Combine Our Two Favourite Topics Ever, Toilets and Syphilis!

Oriental toilets have been rearing their heads a fair amount recently. A chance remark made by Insane Lunatic Friend gave us food for thought. After spending some time in eastern Europe to watch some species of sports event, Insane Lunatic Friend wrote to us.

Dear Privy Counsellor, our most awesome and intelligent friend, the missive read. I saw this and thought of you. I was overcome by the frequency of 'French' toilets in the Ukraine; this would have actually helped.

And a very interesting and amusing article it was, too - read it here.

How to use a squat toilet. Note name: "Japanese-style toilet". Image from this site.

As interesting as the subject of squat toilets is, however, are we the only ones to have sudden, alarming thoughts of syphilis? We weren't aware that squat toilets were known as "French toilets" - we have been accustomed to referring to them as "Oriental", "Italian" or indeed, in Italy, "Alaturka" (i.e. "Turkish") toilets. Wikipedia, further illustrating the international unwillingness to take responsibility for having invented the squat toilet, informs us that it is also known as "an Arabic, French, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Iranian, Indian, Turkish or Natural-Position toilet".

Returning to the topic of syphilis, a certain academic tract which we got our (rather dirty) hands on says, on the topic of naming unpleasant diseases imported from abroad,

[Syphilis] broke out in Naples in 1494, when Charles VIII, the King of France, entered the city with his army, and ever since, it has been referred to by the French as ‘the Neapolitan disease’, and by the Italians as ‘the French disease’. It was to be given many other names as it made its way through Europe and the rest of the world; to France, Germany and Denmark in 1496, to England and Scotland in 1497, to India in 1498, and to Japan in 1512.

Bringing this back to Insane Lunatic Friend's unfortunate obsession with ball sports, our academic tract further tells us that,

Julian Barnes writes, ‘I recently discussed Daudet’s case with a friend who is a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases. “Syphilis has become boring since penicillin,” he told me. (Boring for the doctor, anyway.) Though the disease has been more or less eradicated domestically, mass air travel still brings him a few cases. A couple of years ago he treated a group of young men who all appeared to have something in common – apart from their infection, that is. They were, it turned out, England football supporters who had followed the national team to a friendly game in Moldova, and had been impressed by how much extra friendliness their money had bought. If any of them had read La Douleur, they might realize how great their historical luck had been.’

Let's hope Insane Lunatic Friend was very careful with the, er, French toilets.

Syphliis. Image from this awesome site

Related Reading
Syphilis, Bathing, and Dentures: You Know It Makes Sense

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