Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP
Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP
Lisa Lim
Opinion

Opinion

Language Matters by Lisa Lim

Toilet paper has been top of shopping lists for weeks, but where did the term originate?

  • ‘Toilet’ was first euphemistically applied to the room containing a WC in the 1700s
  • In mid-20th century Britain, saying ‘toilet’ instead of 'lavatory’ identified the speaker as non-upper class

Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP
Customers queue to buy toilet paper in a Hong Kong supermarket in February. Photo: AP
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Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim has worked in Singapore, Britain, Amsterdam and Sri Lanka, and until June 2018 was Associate Professor and Head of the School of English at the University of Hong Kong, where she still holds an Honorary position. She now is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. She is co-editor of the journal Language Ecology, founder of the website linguisticminorities.hk, and co-author of Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2016).