Friday, November 10, 2006

Ancient Greek lavatories

Oh dear ! The psychologists flushed with enthusiasm have , at their convenience, added to the immense chain of modern phobias. They have invented a new one, a fear of entering public toilets and of course it needs a new word. With devastating originality they have coined (for not spending a penny) the name toiletophobia. Clearly they have taken the advice I once saw in the lavatory at Brussels airport to "eschew obfuscation". It's also the wrong term since the poor cross-legged toiletophobes do not fear lavatories in general but only public ones. Perhaps cottage-o-phobia would answer.

It occurred to me that there should be an appropriate ancient Greek stem to attach to phobia. Modern Greeks, not having the benefit of the advice of Nancy Mitford, use a form of the French toilette. Online ancient Greek dictionaries are no help, usually being based on the New Testament. Neither there nor in Homer is there mention of anything which translates as toilet or lavatory. If there is, the lexicographers are shy and do not mention it. I would be grateful if any chance blog reader can supply the ancient Greek for lavatory or better still public lavatory if the Attic world ever saw such a thing.

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