British to American translation needed

If you feel that your question or comment doesn't fit into the categories above, feel free to post it here.
Post Reply

British to American translation needed

Post by BonnieL » Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:52 pm

I'm reading a Dorothy Sayers mystery and found myself puzzled by a phrase. In the 87 years since the book was published, meanings might have changed, but someone might know what she meant by it.

Here's the sentence:

"It was a small alley, rather than a street, containing nothing but the back-entrances of some warehouses and a public convenience."

What's a "public convenience"? Is it, as it seems to me, a public toilet? Which seems odd as she doesn't mention bathrooms or toilets anywhere else in the book.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by tony h » Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:59 pm

You are quite right it is a public toilet. This is at a time when toilets may still not have been available in all buildings. It gives an added sense of - not being a place one venture after dark.


Which book?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by BonnieL » Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:22 pm

The Five Red Herrings. It's a good mystery, but a strange story. So far she's eliminated 2 of the 5 suspects, so don't tell me whodunit! :D
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by tony h » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:01 pm

BonnieL wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:22 pm
The Five Red Herrings. It's a good mystery, but a strange story. So far she's eliminated 2 of the 5 suspects, so don't tell me whodunit! :D
Enjoy. Just for some local colour, the book was written in 1931 (I looked that up), and is set in Galloway. In the early '70s I used to go and stay with an uncle on the Galloway Ayreshire border. He was a small farmer (the farm was small and so was he). The house was a traditional stone basement and the living quarters above in wood. In the cold the cattle were herded into the basement where their bodies and the warmth of the resultant dung heap heated and perfumed the living area. There was no plumbing. Water was drawn from the well (now fitted with a hand pump) and waste went onto the composting heap.


Maybe the notice of a "public convenience" was to show the sophistication of the town.

P.S. It reminds me that Mahatma Gandhi had some campaign about being able to "spend a penny" in England but not in India - but I can't quite remember what it was all about. A penny was the coin that allowed entrance to a coin operated public convenience. Thus to " spend a penny" means to go to the toilet.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Dec 09, 2018 8:22 am

Is one of the five red herrings the possibility that there might actually be six of them?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Dec 09, 2018 7:00 pm

ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: British to American translation needed

Post by gdwdwrkr » Mon Dec 10, 2018 3:00 am

...and free of the admission-charge....Mahatma is a penny richer.
But wait, only editors may use it, according to the sign.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply