10.23.2005

bodily-function poems

consider the following rhymes, to be found taped inside the doors of various bathroom stalls:
If it's yellow, let it mellow
if it's brown, flush it down. (Summer Camp Classic)

if you sprinkle
when you tinkle
please be neat
and wipe the seat!
(printed sign, girls restroom, New Dorm B, Brown University)

don't be rude,
flush your poo.
-The Managment
(handwritten in friends' suite in Grad Center tower C, Brown University)

I, for one, cannot imagine signs of equivalent explicitness written in prose:
If you urinate on the toilet seat, please clean up after yourself.

Please remember to flush the toilet after defecating in it.

Gross!!, right? No one would post, or stand for, such a sign.

I haven't developed a working hypothesis about this yet, but i'd like to start by examining the differences between the acceptable and unnaceptable signage above.

The most obvious of these is rhyme. Simple rhymed couplets in folksy meter seem to be standard fare. (slant-rhyme: poo and rude, is fine.)

The words used for bodily functions in the poems are of a different level of diction from my prose examples. 'poo' and 'tinkle' are not the same words as 'urinate' and 'defecate'. i'd characterize them as the words used between parents and children, who must often discuss such matters tastefully.

Who can say what words we use for bodily functions when we are alone in bathroom stalls? they are probably not 'poo' and 'tinkle', but when communication (from an authority?) takes place in the stall, it is couched in terms that are distinctly 'cute'.

And a definition of that terms is wanted. perhaps it is unoffensive, parental, endearing, even distancing? is there an implication in these signs that the management would rather not have to discuss these tender subjects? are signs on dorm kitchen doors also rhyming and cutesy, or is it only 'poo' and 'tinkling' that call for this mode of communication? these are questions for further research.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

My first thought that was poetry is condensed, and therefore takes less time to read. In this case, it also takes considerably less effort.

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