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Where is the WC?

picture of wc sign

If you've traveled overseas, especially in Europe, you are probably familiar with the abbreviation WC in public places. The letters stand for water closet (toilet). In Germany I was surprised to see that in some places they use the abbreviation 00 (double zero, or Null-Null in German, Null rhyming with pool). I read somewhere that it began in hotels with numbered rooms — the idea being that 00 would not be confused for a sleeping room. My mind always saw it as the letter "O" twice and I would think "uh-oh!"

Today's iv is the result of subject matters in two of my French classes this week. We just learned about the letter combination WC in my second semester French class yesterday. The initials WC always make me think of a classic bit of humor I first heard as a high schooler. When I asked my class if they had ever heard the story about the Wayside Chapel, I was surprised that only 2 of the 25 students admitted to having heard it before.

In my 17th Century French Literature class we are reading L'Avare (The Miser) by Molière. Some of Molière's comedy is based on quiproquo (from the Latin quid pro quod = something for something, the idea of one thing for another thing) in which a misunderstanding is caused by each person's talking about one thing while the other person is understanding something else. The result can be quite funny, as in today's blog post.

Just so you know before reading this, it is bathroom humor that is as close to the line as I want to get. I think, however, you will enjoy it for its quiproquo comedic qualities.

Where is the WC?

An English schoolteacher was in Switzerland looking for a room to rent in the area where she would begin teaching English the following fall. She asked the schoolmaster if he would recommend any rooms to her. He took her to see several, and she chose one she was certain would meet her needs. When everything was settled, she returned home to make final preparations for the move.

After arriving at home, the thought suddenly occurred to her that she had not seen a "water closet" (toilet) around the place. She immediately wrote a note to the schoolmaster asking him where the WC was located. Since the schoolmaster was a poor master of English, he asked the parish priest about the meaning of the letters WC. Their part of Switzerland had small chapels in the countryside that they called wayside chapels, and so the only solution the priest could come up with for the letters was "Wayside Chapel." The schoolmaster then wrote the following note to the English lady inquiring about the location of the WC.

My Dear Madam:

In our part of Switzerland there are not many WC's. I take great pleasure in informing you, though, that there is a WC only nine miles from the house where you will be renting a room. Since you do not own a car, I trust that the distance will not be too great a hardship, especially if you are in the habit of going regularly. It is situated on lovely grounds in the centre of a beautiful grove of pine trees. It has a seating capacity of 229 people and is open not only on Sundays, but also on Thursdays if you find that more convenient. Since there is usually a great number of people there, especially during the summer tourist season, I suggest that you come early in the day, although there is usually plenty of standing room.

I would especially suggest that your ladyship go on Thursdays when there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard by all. For the children, there is a special time and place so that they do not disturb the elders.

It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the WC. It was actually there that she and her husband first met. I can remember the rush there was for seats the day of their wedding. There were ten people to every seat normally occupied by only one. It was wonderful to see the expressions on the faces of all of those present.

The newest addition is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to raise funds for plush seats for all, since the people feel it is a need of longstanding. My wife is rather delicate, so she cannot go regularly. It has been almost a year since she went last, and naturally it pains her greatly not to be able to go more often.

I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, where you can be seen by all each time you go there.

Hoping to have been of some service to you, I remain

The Schoolmaster


I trust that you enjoyed the read. When you are in a foreign country, restrooms can be a daunting challenge. One of the young men on one of our teams to France counted 7 different ways to flush toilets there. Do you have an adventure you'd like to share?


"It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing, when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper." - Rod Serling

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The best way to forget all your troubles is to wear tight shoes.