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Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 05, 2011 at 21:57

In Reply to: Loo posted by Facey Romford on April 05, 2011 at 14:32:

: It is often asserted that the word 'loo', meaning a lavatory, derives from a cry of 'guardez l'eau', called as a chamber pot was empied from a window. Is there the slightest evidence for this? What is the earliest occurrence of this explanation? Is it not more likely that 'loo' is simply 'lieu'- the place (as we still tend to pronounce it in such terms as 'time in lieu')?

I don't know when the 'gardy-loo' idea was first propounded, but there are two strikes against it. (1) that 'gardy-loo' was an Edinburgh phrase, and 'loo' is very much a native of England; (2) that 'loo' is first recorded in the 1920s, a century or so after Edinburgh had been supplied with plumbing.

The strike against the notion that it derives from mealy-mouthed persons referring delicately to "the lieu" is that there is no record of anyone doing so, ever.

The OED doesn't even mention either explanation. It says 'Etym. obscure', but suggests that it may derive from a pun on 'water closet' and 'Waterloo'.