Alyson Ridel
I have been asked to find the origin of the word 'loo' for an english assignment.
Here in Egland we use it for the word toilet, a polite slang word abit like the john used in the states. I would be grateful if anyone has any ideas.

Many Thanks

Lewis Joplin II
I am from the U.S. but I have a reference that lists several possible origins. If you want the rest of this entry, please post again.

LOO - "...As to the derivation of 'loo,' the editor has been assured that it is a corruption of 'l'eau' (French for 'the water') as used, in the good old days, in the expression 'Gardez l'eau!' shouted down at pedestrians by people throwing slops out of the window. Some support for this view may be gained from the following passage in David Daiches's 'Was' (Thames and Hudson, London, 1975):'But some Scots was French: gardyloo, watch out for the water, they had cried from the windows of the high flats of Edinburgh...'Another source considers 'loo' a truncated pun derived from 'Waterloo' (cf. the water in water closet). Another theory is the following: In hotels, the French used to put the number 00 or 100 on the door of the toilet, as a variant of the letters 'w.c.' which stand for water closet. 'Numero cent' and 'w.c.' (pronounced 'dooblevay say') were used interchangeably by the anxious guest looking for the facility, British soldiers returning France during and after World War I, according to this hypothesis, misinterpreted the number 100 and came back with 'loo.' However, Alan S.C. Ross...in an article entitled simply, 'Loo,' published in 'Blackwood's Magazine' (Edinburgh), October 1974, says of this derivation, 'This seems an altogether improbable suggestion.'

Prof. Ross lists seven theories and rejects them all in favor of a 'sporadic French joke,' to wit: 'le waterloo' - but then goes on to express his doubts about that one as well..." From "British English from A to Zed" by Norman Schur (FirstHarperPerennial edition, New York, 1991). Page 216-217.

I don't know what "cf." stands for in the passage above. Anyone?

cf.: "compare" and is an abbreviation of the Latin, confer.
Lewis Joplin II
Thanks. I looked in the explanatory notes in the beginning of the reference and it wasn't explained. I guess the editors thought EVERYONE knew that.
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