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  1. #11
    NikkiBarber's Avatar
    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    I have never researched this, but it seems to me that the expression is mostly used by younger people in Denmark which makes me think that we have simply picked up on it from all the American culture that we are exposed to. I might be wrong, though.

  2. #12
    MiaCulpa is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    I was (a bit too) excited to discover that during the "Great Depression" (as the international economic collapse during the 1930s was called here), the U.S. federal government's Works Progress Administration (WPA) funded the construction of concrete outhouses for a number of public schools. Since the verbal expression, "number two" was found in print by 1902, the finger signals and the verbal phrase appear to have coexisted for at least fifty years--at least in some areas of the U.S.--before the finger signals became extinct. I'm now trying to track down where I remember coming across a reference to the finger signals being used in a military context. (Oh dear. This may be becoming something of a scatological interest for me. )
    Last edited by MiaCulpa; 27-Dec-2010 at 18:35.

  3. #13
    hotmetal is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    I, too, love to hear these sort of explanations and etymologies. It's part of what makes language so fascinating. From personal experience I have never heard of there being a code for the intended bodily function, you either needed to be excused or you didn't. And if it was for a 'number two', you'd try to run and get back quickly so people wouldn't know which you'd been doing!

    On the original question though, I had always thought (perhaps wrongly), that the origin of this was just a euphemistic one. That is to say, "number two" meant "poo" because it rhymed but wasn't a taboo word, while "number one" meant "wee" simply by a process of elimination (no pun intended!)

    I can't see a big problem arising from the fact that indoor plumbing was in widespread use well before the first recorded use of the phrase. I mean, just because the toilet block is now indoors instead of outdoors doesn't mean the teacher no longer 'needs' this information. It's not like the cubicles were located at the back of the classroom from 1860 onwards, they still must have been down the corridor at least…
    Last edited by hotmetal; 28-Dec-2010 at 22:19.

  4. #14
    MiaCulpa is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    Quote Originally Posted by hotmetal View Post
    I can't see a big problem arising from the fact that indoor plumbing was in widespread use well before the first recorded use of the phrase. I mean, just because the toilet block is now indoors instead of outdoors doesn't mean the teacher no longer 'needs' this information. It's not like the cubicles were located at the back of the classroom from 1860 onwards, they still must have been down the corridor at least…
    Glad to meet a fellow word "geek" in the room! Discovering the overlap between the custom and the apparently related phrase was to find out more about a proposition made by a professional research editor--that most American schools had indoor toilets by the 1840s--which seems not necessarily to apply to the large rural parts of the country. She seemed to be saying that since outdoor restrooms allegedly disappeared in the 1840s and that the first printed reference to "number two" occurred in 1902, there could be no relationship between the phenomena. I've been trying to find out if that were true.

    Meanwhile, I recently heard a horrifying story (that also made me laugh) while relaxing after Christmas dinner. A boy in my stepfather's class in the 1930s used the finger signal that indicated "number two" and was gone a slightly longer time than usual. Weather conditions are very extreme in many parts of the U.S., especially in winter, and it was deathly cold. The teacher went to check on the child after perhaps 20 minutes.

    The WPA (see above) had built the school's outhouse to adult specifications, and the child had fallen in! He was holding his arms straight out to suspended himself over the deep (and disgustingly deadly) pit below him. He could have died if the teacher hadn't checked on him. Conditions in some parts of this country remained primitive longer than those found in many other Western countries, apparently, and bears and snakes were possible dangers for children leaving the safety of the school house alone as well.

  5. #15
    NikkiBarber's Avatar
    NikkiBarber is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    Quote Originally Posted by clevermae View Post
    I always seen that expression too! But never know the meaning of it! But maybe it seems that they are acting like a hater... it's what I have understood for that.


    I don't understand? Do you mean the expression "to go number 2"?

  6. #16
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouisch View Post
    The first recorded use of "number two" as a euphemism for defecation was in 1902, some 60 years after indoor plumbing had become the norm in most U.S. schools. The outhouse explanation is actually an urban legend.
    At the risk of going even further off-thread, I have to say that I am surprised that indoor plumbing had become the norm in most U.S. schools by the 1860s. In Britain, flush plumbing may have been in city schools in the 1860s, though some rural schools still had earth closets well into the 1960s. (The foulness of the atmosphere still comes to my mind at times,)

    Even when schools had flush plumbing, lavatories were still frequently located either outside the main building, often in the old outhouses, or in fairly remote parts of the building.

    The finger-signalling story may be an urban myth, but, the location of the lavatories or the type of plumbing or buckets would not necessarily prove this. The finger signals would give an indication of the time involved wherever the lavatories were, and however they functioned.

  7. #17
    igor.rogi is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: gotta go number 2

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    I never knew that, MiaCulpa. Very interesting.

    Welcome to the board.

    Rover
    In Brazil we use the same sentence in Portuguese! It's kind of a universal expression! lol..

    But remember, totally informal expressions... used with close friends or relatives...

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