Saturday, May 25, 2002
i'm tired and i should be asleep but i'm having the worst cramps in various parts of my body which make it impossible to even get comfortable enough to think of sleep. it's really awful. so, in an attempt to distract myself i will tell all of you a story.
gardyloo, a funny word at first glance, don't you think? if you've read sir walter scott you might know it's origins. in any case, it means "watch out for the water," and is a strange french corruption. it was mostly used in Edinburgh starting in the 1600's before people would throw their bucket of waste out of the upper story windows. Edinburgh is not a large city so most of the buildings in the Old Town are built up with many upper stories. the windows mostly open onto the various closes, which are narrow lanes that run off the main street and go between the buildings. imagine all the angry and really filthy people you'd have if you didn't utter this warning.
"Far overhead the windows opened, five, six or ten stories in the air, and the close stools of Edinburgh discharged the collected filth of the last 24 hours into the street. It was good manners for those above to cry `Gardy-loo!' before throwing ... early in the morning it was perfunctorily cleared away by the City Guard. Only on the Sabbath morn it might not be touched, but lay there all day long, filling Scotland's capital with the savour of a mistaken piety." - Trevelyan