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Off topic: I need to go to the loo/toilet
Thread poster: Claudia Mattiozzi

Claudia Mattiozzi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:10
Italian to English
+ ...
Nov 14, 2010

Hi! In Italy, at elementary school, my daughter has been taught by her English teacher (who is Italian) to ask "Can I go to the loo?".
Personally, I don't go crazy for this word.
It sounds a bit unpolite to me. Am I wrong?
I'm wondering why the teacher does not prefer "toilet".
I'd appreciate British and American native comments. Thanks


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:10
English to German
+ ...
Americans Nov 14, 2010

say: "I need to go to the bathroom." Mentioning the device/throne itself ("toilet") is considered impolite. The term "bathroom" always struck me as an odd expression, though, because the pretty much last thing that one is planning to do in a stall is taking a bath. icon_smile.gif

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Brits Nov 14, 2010

use loo quite widely informal situations but I think toilet is safer for more formal occasions and when in an "international" environment - you want to be understood, after all!

Loo used to be considered "slang" (I remember being told off for using it when I first heard it) but I think it has become mainstream British English for all situations that aren't formal.


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:10
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Restoom Nov 14, 2010

I prefer "May/can I go to/use the restroom?", particularly if the location is any public facility. In addition, it eliminates any confusion regarding whether one is actually planning to "bathe" in the bathroom.

 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:10
English to German
+ ...
That's another beautiful unisex term Nov 14, 2010

Rudolf Vedo CT wrote:

I prefer "May/can I go to/use the restroom?", particularly if the location is any public facility. In addition, it eliminates any confusion regarding whether one is actually planning to "bathe" in the bathroom.


I do love the euphemistically used term "powder room". For ladies.icon_smile.gif


 

Claudia Mattiozzi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:10
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Remember we are talking about children Nov 14, 2010

I don't expect formal expression by children, anyway, I believe the teacher should not teach "slang" words.
What happens if someone asks for the loo in the US?


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Lingustiic maze Nov 14, 2010

I could probably give you various pages on this subject. In the UK we would quickly find ourselves mired in questions of language as an indicator of class, and "toilet" seems to have been settled on as a compromise, not completely satisfactory, but for want of anything else.

However, we have yet to find anything to satisfy both sides of the Atlantic, so students may have to learn two forms: we have long had to teach double forms (sidewalk/pavement, cheque/bill, bill/note etc).

But Claudia, your daughter is being taught a term (loo) which is perfectly acceptable in the UK, so don't worry.


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:10
English to German
+ ...
Clarification Nov 14, 2010

Claudia Mattiozzi wrote:

I don't expect formal expression by children, anyway, I believe the teacher should not teach "slang" words.


The question is not slang or no slang, in the US "toilet" simply refers to the porcellain thing only, not to the location where to find them.

Which is why signs like this (this one is from Australia, I think) are considered hilarious in the US and are listed on "Funny Signs" websites:



 

Stephanie Ezrol  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:10
Member (2009)
English
+ ...
rest room, ladies room, mens room Nov 14, 2010

In the U.S., in my experience, the usual term is rest room or ladies or mens room. Nicole's comment about not mentioning the toilet rings true.

Bathroom is used, but always sounds very odd when using a public facility which has no bath.


 

Gilla Evans  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
changing fashions Nov 14, 2010

When I was at school in the UK, admittedly rather a long time ago, we were told to put up our hands and say "please may I be excused?"

"being excused" came to mean "having a pee" for a long time after that.

Certainly in the UK, "going to the loo" cuts across most class and age barriers nowadays.



[Edited at 2010-11-14 16:44 GMT]


 

Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Relationships with teachers Nov 14, 2010

Stephanie Ezrol wrote:

In the U.S., in my experience, the usual term is rest room or ladies or mens room. Nicole's comment about not mentioning the toilet rings true.

Bathroom is used, but always sounds very odd when using a public facility which has no bath.


I agree with Stephanie about the U.S., and should add that in English-speaking Canada it is usually referred to as the "washroom". To my ears, "toilet" sounds a bit stark.

As is clear from all the comments on different ways of referring to this small private space, and as we all know as linguists, language is a very fluid thing. Our children will soon come to realize this as well. When I was teaching school French, I received a courteous call from a Congolese parent informing me that I should be using "septante" instead of "soixante-dix"! Another parent from France object to my Quebec-oriented (and correct) pronunciation of certain words, even though the school itself was located near the Quebec border.

I did welcome these discussions with the native-language speaking parents, as long as their children were taught to respect the teachers (even non-native ones such as I was), to have an open mind, and to take delight in the many many ways the same idea can be expressed.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Gosh, yes! Nov 14, 2010

Gilla Evans wrote:

When I was at school in the UK, admittedly rather a long time ago, we were told to put up our hands and say "please may I be excused?"


My memory needed the nudge - it was so long ago - but you're right, that is what we said at school.

My Mum used to talk about "spending a penny" but I think it's more like 50 now, isn't it?


 

Catherine Gilsenan
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:10
French to English
+ ...
Toilet Nov 14, 2010

Definitely "toilet" for schoolchildren in UK. More polite than "loo".

By the way, if you asked a teacher in UK "Can I go to the toilet?" you would invariably get the reply:

"Yes, I'm sure you can go to the toilet (indicating ability), but I think you mean 'May I go to the toilet' (indicating permission)".


 

Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:10
Italian to English
Exactly what I was going to say Nov 14, 2010

Catherine Gilsenan wrote:
Definitely "toilet" for schoolchildren in UK. More polite than "loo".

By the way, if you asked a teacher in UK "Can I go to the toilet?" you would invariably get the reply:

"Yes, I'm sure you can go to the toilet (indicating ability), but I think you mean 'May I go to the toilet' (indicating permission)".


I remember teachers responding in exactly that way when children asked "Can I go to the toilet"icon_wink.gif

These days I think "toilet" and "loo" are fairly interchangeable in more informal situations in the UK. However, at school we always used the word "toilet". My 3-year-old talks about "going to the toilet" at preschool, so I assume that's the term they use too. I would never say "washroom", "rest room" or "powder room", although I do sometimes say I'm going to the "bathroom".

I had assumed "toilet" was acceptable on both sides of the Atlantic, but from reading this thread I'm clearly wrong!

[Edited at 2010-11-14 19:35 GMT]


 

Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:10
German to English
+ ...
Class distinctions in the UK Nov 14, 2010

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-art-of-etiquette-a-bluffers-guide-to-being-posh-445059.html

 
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