Toiling In The Toilet

| Learning | December 24, 2015

(I work in a technical high school where students learn mechanical engineering and manufacturing. My nearly-all-male English students are native German speakers, and sometimes don’t get the hang of English idioms. This is what happened one day when I corrected them:)

Student #1: “Can I go on the toilet?”

Me: “You know, when you say it that way, in my mind I see you sitting ON the toilet, with your trousers around your ankles, and playing on your cell phone. I don’t want that picture in my mind!”

(Students in class laugh.)

Me: “You know, in America we never use the word toilet – it’s kind of a dirty word. We use it only to say ‘We need more toilet paper’ ‘We need more toilet cleaner’ and ‘The toilet is broken.’ We never say ‘Can I go to the toilet?'”

Student #1: “Then what should I say?”

Me: “Well there are different expressions. In Britain they say ‘go to the loo’. In America we say ‘go to the restroom,’ ‘go to the bathroom,’ ‘go to the little girls room’ or ‘go to the little boys room.’ Or if you want to be really polite, girls say, ‘I have to powder my nose’ while boys say…”

(I am going to say, ‘I have to see a man about a horse,’ but one of my students quickly added his own suggestion:)

Student #2: “…I have to powder my snake!”

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