What I’m Thankful for Today Is Plumbing

January 26, 2005 @ 2:18 pm | Filed under: Books

I’m working on a scene in my next Martha book. In 1700s Edinburgh, there was no such thing as a sewage system. James Buchan, in his fascinating book Crowded with Genius: The Scottish Enlightenment: Edinburgh’s Moment of the Mind, writes of servants flinging open the shutters at ten o’clock every evening, calling out “Gardy loo!”—a heads-up for passersby—and emptying the household chamberpots onto the street below.

I am suddenly feeling very fond of my toilets.


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Comments

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  1. As a municipal engineer, working with water and wastewater systems, I, too, am thankful for modern sewers! So, “Gardy Loo” is that why the English refer to the toilet as the “loo?”

  2. Apparently the same thing happened here in the Channel Islands – “Gardy Loo” refers to the french (which is what we spoke then, or a type of french) “Regardez l’eau” – effectively “look out for the water!” Maybe they had french maids in Edinburgh? And maybe that’s why we call it the “loo”…

  3. According to the oxford english dictionary the Gardy loo origin is from from the battle of Waterloo.

    The regardez l’eau is just shit.