Wednesday 30 January 2013

Nursery Talk

This story about the dire consequences of the British 'stiff upper lip' - or rather a British combination of embarrassment, fatalism and not wanting to make a fuss - is probably, like most such stories, nonsense (the counter-example of Denmark would seem to suggest as much). But of course it has attracted much media coverage, and was discussed at some length on the radio this morning. (In the course of this discussion I was interested, if hardly surprised, to learn that, of all those self-testing bowel cancer kits sent out to everyone as they turn 60, barely half come back.) One of those taking part in the 'stiff upper lip' discussion, and supporting the case, was A Doctor (I didn't catch his name), whose ringing conclusion was that we must overcome the taboo that surrounds matters of 'blood and bottoms and poo'... 'Poo' eh? Now there's a man not afraid to break taboos and call a spade a spade.
Alas, this nursery euphemism, until recently the preserve of toddlers and young children, is now universal, to the point where it's rare to hear the stuff called anything else. Even in otherwise grown-up science programmes, even in the magisterial wildlife films of David Attenborough and co, 'poo' is always the word. 'Wee', I suspect, is fast catching up, with who knows what other infantile terms to follow. I suspect our plainer-speaking friends across the Atlantic must be mystified by it all...


  1. The medics used to be direct to the point of abruptness, late seventies and a sojourn in Newcastle's RVI, an excellent teaching hospital. In those pre cellphone days a phone on a trolley served 3 wards, I went in search and found it in the 'men's surgical' next to a bed surrounded by the great white coated ones. The gaffer, or the consultant as the trade calls them was saying in a loud voice to the man in the bed "well, say what you like, it’ll have to come off, if not you're dead." I admire the subtle approach, works every time. Which is more than could be said for the phone.

    Same hospital two days earlier, waking up from the anaesthetic, the Geordie nurse said "feel like shit huh?" we had proper nurses back then.

  2. Not so Nige. Here is the USofA a good part of my job, working in environmental testing and analysis, deals with sewage or as it is universally ephemistically refered to by those who produce it... poop.

    As for my business, which word was itself another term much used I remember by my gran, then as someone once said 'It may be shit to you but its my bread and butter'