Wednesday has come upon us once again, friends and language geeks, which means it’s time for Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!
Today’s wacky word may initially seem like a bit of an odd choice, but a word is a word is a word… right? For your unusual reading pleasure, today’s word is: latrinalia.
The definition from TermWiki.com:
markings made on the walls of restrooms; bathroom graffiti
This word is a neologism penned by a professor of folklore at Berkeley, Allen Dundes, in 1966. The etymology of latrinalia comes from combining the word latrine, which means toilet, and the suffix –alia, which indicates a valueless collection of something—at least that was Dundes’ intention.
In an interview,, the author of Bathroom Graffiti, said that “Bathroom Graffiti is a common denominator; it celebrates what we have in common just as rituals do. It’s a cultural dynamic that binds us to everything human.” Oddly enough, the more we think about it… the more it kinda makes sense.
Taking a step back to consider graffiti in general, the basis of this art form has been around for centuries, evident in the various wall scribbles and inscriptions found in the archeological digs of Pompeii. Even back then, a quip found on a wall illustrates how commonplace graffiti was: “I’m amazed, O wall, that you have not fallen in ruins, you who support the tediousness of so many writers.”
As for modern graffiti, which is usually done with a Magic Marker or a can of spray paint, this art form gained serious momentum during the 1960s in New York City. The explosion of graffiti during this period has been associated with a teenager who went by the tag name Taki 183. He was deemed “king” by neighborhood followers and began a trend that transformed into what we now know as colorful metropolitan graffiti.
We’re not really sure when the transition occurred from outdoor graffiti to latrinalia, but the founder of TED.com seem to agree. Just this October, they announced the winner of the TED prize, an award given to a recipient believed to have “One Wish to Change the World” worthy of the $100,000 prize. The 2011 winner goes by the name JR and identifies himself as a “photograffeur,” graffeur meaning “graffiti artist” in French.identifies bathroom graffiti as “one of the few remaining outlets for free speech in today’s sanitized and controlled media world.” Quite a highbrow assessment for an art form that’s typically associated with adolescent shenanigans, but then again, the folks at world-renowned
Examples of latrinalia come in all types, whether (presumably) in the bathroom stalls in the Microsoft building:
- To Flush, Press Handle. You Do Not Need to Hold Control, Alt, And Delete At The Same Time.
referencing an acclaimed play:
- I’ll be right back. –Godot (from buzzfeed.com)
or illustrating poetic expression:
- Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
So that’s all we’ve got. Have you come across any interesting latrinalia lately?
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