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Privvy counsel

Posted by Lewis on March 30, 2007

In Reply to: Re: Backdoor trots posted by ESC on March 28, 2007

: : : : Hi, a friend of mine has just used the saying : 'backdoor trots'. I undertsand what it means but where did the saying come from?

: : : Outhouses or privies are located outside in back of the house, usually.

: : etymonline says "the trots" for diarrhea is recorded as far back as 1808. It is a play on "the runs". Backdoor (whether this refers to outsides or backsides) adds emphasis (and makes it clear you're not talking about horses running).

: Outsides. As evidenced by the variations: backdoor quicksteps, backhouse trots, backyard trots. From "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume 1 by Frederic G. Cassidy (1985, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England). Page 119.

in most communities, places to defecate are off the beaten track - usually to the rear of habitations. when terraced housing was introduced in the UK, just about nobody had inside waste facilities; almost everybody had a backyard "privvy" - a place to empty oneself in private.

my grandmother (born 1892) was very reluctant to have an inside facility - many people of that era found the idea of bringing toilet facilities indoors unhygienic.

BTW - I have stuggled with the nomenclature - whilst a 'toilet' or 'lavatory' is common usage both mean 'to wash' and are almost as daft as 'wash-room' - at least that is better than 'rest-room', as washing ones hands is at least part of the process.
referring to the sanitary-ware as the 'crapper' or the 'shitter' may sound crude, but it avoids a misnoma. I may not know much, but I know not to wash in a toilet bowl.

L