Tinkle, wee, wiz, piss, take a leak, empty your bladder, relieve yourself, use the john, “go” on the go, answer nature’s call…the list of pee euphemisms is seemingly endless, and we are here for it. We do think it’s important to call our body parts by their actual names in order to understand our bodies and ourselves in a more comprehensive way, but we love different idioms and euphemisms for going to the bathroom! (Don’t even get us started on pee puns) We chose a few of the most noteworthy terms and did some digging about these weird phrases and where they come from.
This is one you’ve likely heard before. Many word historians and etymologists have looked into its origin and there are some working theories, but no one has been able to come up with a verified answer. We do know that it has been around for over 100 years, popping up in a book of slang in 1902. There is also some evidence that people referred to the chamber pot itself, not just the contents, as number one. We aren’t sure how that makes sense but we weren’t around back then to ask. It is also one of the more neutral euphemisms out there without feeling too sterile, especially in contrast to established medical terms (micturation isn’t particularly inviting). We all know about #2…but anyone have a proposal for what #3 should be?
See A Man About A Horse
This idiom was first officially published in 1866 in Dion Boucicault’s play Flying Scud (the Euphoria of its time?) and can be applied more widely than just peeing; it’s a euphemistic way to excuse yourself without needing to give a specific reason, in the event that that reason is considered “inappropriate”. Inappropriate reasons, back in the day, included going to the bathroom, buying a drink, or getting a loan. We’re relieved (haha) that those are no longer considered taboo conversation topics, but would love to see the look on our friends’ faces next time we try this one on the trail.
My Back Teeth Are Floating
This expression is likely from the South and means “I reallllllyy need to pee”. It’s typically used in an emergency situation (if you think about why the teeth are floating, it makes sense, ew). Some also say “my eyes are turning yellow” or “my eyes are floating”, all of which are definitely on the grosser end of the euphemism spectrum, so we don’t think we’ll be employing this one anytime soon.
Spend A Penny
This British expression is a much more polite way to say you need to use the “loo”. It refers to the former use of coin operated locks on public toilets. The phrase was used mostly by women because men’s urinals were free of charge (seems fair). These locks were introduced at the public toilets outside the Royal Exchange in London in the 1850s but the phrase wasn’t recorded until 1945 in H. Lewis’s Strange Story. We’re glad that this is no longer a thing, but it reminds us that women have been discouraged in ways big and small from being active and independent out in the world, including having to pay up to pee while their male counterparts did it for free!
In our research, we also discovered that there are many more slang terms and euphemisms for people with penises than people with vulvas, so maybe it’s time to come up with some more creative phrases to balance that out! We’re taking (PG rated) suggestions in the comments.