WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

I’m not sure which prospect is less appealing: traveling in the 21st century and chancing a bathroom stop at a gas station, fast food restaurant, or rest area…or traveling in the 19th century and having to transport your (used) potty in your carriage.

When I was still in the schoolroom, my family nicknamed me “Iron Kidney” for my ability to go the bathroom before we left the hotel and skip the roadside privies in favor of waiting until our new hotel room that night. I truly didn’t risk my health by avoiding voiding; I honestly didn’t need to use the facilities, and the fact that they were disappointingly maintained only fortified my magical kidney powers.

But I digress.

For Regency ladies without my urological strength, how did they go when on the go?

Tea Voider

A chamber pot.

For the Regency lady, with all her wardrobe layers and contraptions, travel was already a daunting affair. It’s one thing to glide gracefully around a room, or perch daintily on a settee when swathed in a chemise, stays, petticoat(s), skirt(s), and stockings tied at the knee. It’s quite another to ride on a bench seat down rutted roads in a carriage, well-sprung or no. Eventually, when nature called, the answer was the bourdaloue.

That’s no gravy boat! Bourdaloue by Minton in Staffordshire, ca. 1830.

The bourdaloue was designed specifically for females to allow urination from a standing or squatting position. The unique oblong shape with a lip at one end and handle at the other helped ladies navigate their business while (hopefully) preventing any toilet mishaps. The added benefit was the ability to drop one’s skirts around said business. I can only imagine this was a learning process, mastering the physics of aim, angle, and skirt arrangement. Potty training 2.0.

La Toilette Intime (Une Femme Qui Pisse) by François Boucher, 1760s, location unknown.

It’s likely completely anecdotal, but the name ‘bourdaloue’ supposedly derived from the (in)famous French Catholic priest, Louis Bourdaloue (1632 – 1704), whose sermons lasted so long that aristocratic females had their maids bring pots in discreetly under their dresses so that they could urinate without having to leave. There are other attendant factors involved in urination that make me think this is pure myth, but some sermonizing can be lengthy, so….

I’m looking at you, Mr. Collins.

Of course, ladies could always avail themselves of the necessary at coaching inns, or the woods when stopping at a wide spot in the road for a snack, but the bourdaloue and its singular feminine appointments just seem like the natural choice for travel. And they truly are beautiful works of art.

Bourdaloue at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.

Bourdaloue by Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, France, 1740, courtesy Getty Museum.

Bourdaloue by Sèvres, 1801-1850, Château Attique de Petit Trianon.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue with Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte after Lancret, painted by Johann George Heintze, 1741, courtesy 1stdibs Oneline Trade.

Meissen Bourdalous with decorated with Schneeballen, ca. 1740.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

Inside bowl shot of Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

If you have an hour to spare, take a trip back in time with historian extraordinaire, Lucy Worsley, as she explores the history of the bathroom. (This is episode two of a four part series)


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ April Fool

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ April Fool

Last Friday was April 1st, the date known practically the world over as April Fool’s Day. The one day when pranksters can get away with various and sundry harassments and plagues. A celebration of the worldwide “Kick Me” sign.


Any one imposed on, or sent on a bootless errand, on the first of April; which day it is the custom among the lower people, children, and servants, by dropping empty papers carefully doubled up, sending persons on absurd messages, and such like contrivances, to impose on every one they can, and then to salute them with the title of April Fool. This is also practised in Scotland under the title of Hunting the Gowke.

James Gillray, "The April Fool Consigned to Infamy and Ridicule," 1801, Victoria and Albert Museum.

James Gillray, “The April Fool Consigned to Infamy and Ridicule,” 1801, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Whether its origins can truly be traced back to the Roman Festival of Hilaria or the Medieval Feast of Fools, the first known documented reference to an April Fool is by Geoffrey Chaucer, in the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” story of his Canterbury Tales in 1392. A wily fox plays on the vanity and conceit of the cock Chauntecleer, and nearly succeeds in having him for dinner.

When that the monthe in which the world bigan
That highte March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and passed were also
Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two

Much scholarly debate has centered around whether Chaucer actually meant April 1st or May 3rd; an argument can be made for both interpretations. For the purposes of celebrating all things April Fool, I choose to believe Chaucer went for the historical reference in his tale of torment of the easily gulled.

In 1508, French choirmaster and composter Eloy d’Amerval composed a poem containing a line that roughly translated means “Infamous Mackerel, of many man and many woman, April Fools.” To this day, people shout out “Poisson d’Avril!” Children do so while sticking a picture of a fish on each other’s backs.

maquereau infâme de main d’homme
et de mainte femme,
poisson d’avril.

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene penned a poem entitled Refereyn Vp verzendekens dach/Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach. Easy for me to type. The closest meaning translates from late Medieval Dutch means to “Refrain on errand-day/which is the first of April.” In these verses, a nobleman makes his servants run fools’ errands on the first of April. These servants, however, are perhaps less fools and more loyal help: each stanza closes with a servant stating, “I am afraid … that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.”


The first British reference to April Fool’s Day appeared in 1686, when John Aubrey in Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme simply wrote of “Fooles Holy Day – We observe it on ye first of April.” My favorite documentation of British observance of April trickery comes in the form of invitations to the Annual Ceremony of the Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London. Never mind the fact that there were no lions kept there any longer. Nor were they ever washed.

The premier April Fool's Event - the annual washing of the Tower lions, 1856.

The premier April Fool’s Event – the annual washing of the Tower lions, 1856.

Want to know more about the history of April Fool’s? Check out these fascinating blog posts, and follow them while you’re there!

Origins of April Fools’ Day or France’s April Fish by Geri Walton
The Origin of April Fool’s Day by Regina Jeffers
All About April – Fools and Showers at Jane Austen’s London


Slang definition from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. All other sources used are clickable links in the above text.