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Category Archives: Language
Earlier today I was at Fred Meyer and looked up. I saw this:
I’d seen this before but never really thought about it. Fred Meyer, it seems, is politely refraining from using the dread phrase “toilet paper.” Their in-house brand does the same:
Okay, technically it says “bathroom tissue,” but it’s basically the same thing. I got to wondering if any of the brands of toilet paper in my immediate vicinity actually proclaimed what they were- paper that you use after going to the toilet. I looked about and did not see a single one. Not one brand of toilet paper actually used the words “toilet paper” on their packaging. Instead, there were lots of pictures of cute puppies:
Or cartoon bears:
The entreaties to softness, light, and general distance from things excremental even extends to invocations of the celestial on packaging. Juxtaposed, of course, with a baby:
I looked around for some kind of generic or earth-friendly brand that maybe dared to call itself by its true name, but found not a one. The only copy I saw was that recalling softness and, sometimes, absorbency. I wasn’t put out by this because I think that “toilet paper” is the most fantastically well put together diptych of words in the English language- I simply appreciate honesty. No one says “I’m going to pick up some bath tissue,” or “Hey, sweetie, pick up some bath tissue on your way home,” or “Crap, guys! We’re out of bath tissue.” No human talks like that. We all call it toilet paper, but the aisles and packaging assume that the general population are too demure to be assaulted with such vulgar words.
In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera said that kitsch is the denial of shit. He meant that literally. Denying that certain gross biological things happen to us is a form of intellectual laziness and naivete. I’m inclined to agree with him, and it seems that the most shit-denying place on earth, the kitschiest piece of real estate in existence, is the toilet paper aisle.