9

In some situations it might be considered vulgar or lower style to say "I have to go to the toilet". In English there are many ways around this: you can call the toilet something finer (bathroom, restroom, men's room…) or you can substitute another activity (like going to powder one's nose).

How do I excuse myself in Latin in good style if I have such private business to attend to? I suppose I could just translate any of the common euphemisms in other languages, but I thought there might be something more idiomatic in Latin.

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    I don't think I know of one, but this is perhaps because discussion of the subject was avoided in formal writings, and toilets weren't really private affairs. – C. M. Weimer Mar 16 '16 at 3:01
  • @C.M.Weimer Bit of a side issue, but did this apply to women? Can't see a modest Roman matron doing her business in public! – TheHonRose Mar 16 '16 at 21:19
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    @andy256, do you want to convert that to an answer? Saying that one shouldn't use a euphemism is a decent answer even if it does not give me a way to excuse myself politely if I ever want to. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 17 '16 at 22:47
8

Resurrecting an older question, I was recently reading some selections from Erasmus's Colloquia when I came across the following terms for relieving oneself:

Sed incivilius etiam, eum salutare, qui reddit urinam, aut alvum exonerat.

The first is a fairly literal phrasing, but I think the second could be classified as a euphemism of sorts.

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    Alvum exonerat! That's amazing! – Joel Derfner May 2 '16 at 21:28
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One of the great values in learning another language is learning the associated culture. Exporting ones own culture to the new language leads to unnatural use of the language.

Latins tended to use very direct language, without the circumlocations used by many modern English speakers. Do I want to go to the bathroom? No, I want to do a shit! (Ignoring all the possible services one might enjoy in a bath house.)

So I recommend against using euphemisms, unless you are following a commonly used latin turn of phrase.

Examples of such directness can be seen in Ab Urbe Condita Libri, aka The History of Rome by Livy.

(At present I'm moving house, so all my reference books are in boxes. As soon as I can I'll add some more concrete examples - other users feel free to edit some in also :-)

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    Welcome and thanks for contributing! As you note, one way to improve this answer would be to cite references that both back up your "Latin doesn't use circumlocutions" point and provide examples of what Romans would have said. Thanks, and we're looking forward to hearing from you again! – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 18 '16 at 12:40
  • Do you have the books available now? Adding the details would help, even though it's a good answer even in its current state. – Pavel V. Oct 11 '18 at 7:29
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There is none that I know about, but the most common phrase I use in class and with other students is:

Licet mihi ad latrinam ire

The textbook Ecce Romani 1 as well as various Latin teachers I have met commonly agree on this as the best phrase to use

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    Welcome! Thanks for contributing. One way to improve your answer would be to include a source for this phrasing: perhaps one of your textbooks recommends this construction? – Nathaniel is protesting Mar 16 '16 at 1:16
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    That sounds to me like a very direct way of putting it, not a euphemism. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 16 '16 at 1:33
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    @Joonas it may be. There aren't many other phrases that would be used. – Tmanzz122 Mar 17 '16 at 11:06

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