Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unrelated Linguistic Issue

AHH! Big Library Book Sale is over--for a bit, anyway, until I get back down there and clean up. Cleaning up involves a lot of packing of undesirable books in boxes for recycling. But shhh on that. People don't like to hear about books form and consistency.

The Big Library Book Sale took place in our village library's underground space, also known as the cellar, also known as the BASEMENT, and herein lies the gist of my diatribe. And my question.

Is anyone else familiar with another use of the word BASEMENT?

Background story digression. 

I was educated in a smallish school district in Upstate New York. When I was 5, there were two elementary schools in the district, which funneled students into one high school. One elementary was on the campus with the high school, in the suburban section of the district; this was my local elementary school. Most dads in this elementary's range were engineers and such at either IBM or Singer-Link. 

When I was to start 3rd grade, there was a change in the way the district did things, and those of us from the "suburban" elementary were bused to the "rural-agrarian" elementary outpost, which became the district's single 3-6 elementary. The school building I'd attended for K-2 became the district's one and only K-2. So. Half of my fellow 3rd grade students were strangers, and I was in a strange land, where there were some strange euphemisms, but one outstandingly strange one: 

When students from the formerly rural-agrarian elementary raised their hands in the middle of class, they would ask to "go to the basement." 

"Huh?" went our little, suburban brains. "Why do they want to go there? Is there something we should know about in the cellar?"

It soon became clear that these new friends asked to "go to the basement" when they wanted to "go to the bathroom." (In retrospect, neither euphemism makes less sense than the other, because there were and are no bath tubs in the school bathrooms.)

Forty some years have passed, and although I never did switch my lingo and start "going to the basement," when I hear the word "basement," I still think "toilet."

Weird, huh?

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