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Gardyloo

Definition: A warning shouted out the window, typically before waste water or otherwise undesirable liquid was thrown out into the street.  It is now used as an interjection, but in familiar speech was once used as a noun.

Pronunciation:  garh- di-lu

Origin

From the French phrase, “Garde de l’eau!” or possibly “Gardez l’eau!” which means “Look out for the water!”  It was a common phrase in Edinburgh, Scotland and is theorized to be the origin of the word “loo”.

Why this word:  This word appeals to me because of the realistic portrayal of life in cities before plumbing.  While it is not uncommon for people to romanticize “olden times”, the reality of life was that people were much more familiar with disease and waste than we are today.  On a personal note, as the mother of a young toddler, the idea of someone having to duck to avoid waste water seems more like a fact of daily life than a remnant of historic city life.

 

How to use gardyloo in a sentence?

As an interjection, gardyloo is used primarily as an exclamation. However, it was once used as a noun.

After hearing the cry of “Gardyloo!” from above, Frank quickly jumped out of the way before his upstairs neighbor threw out her laundry water.

When Walter came home after his curfew, a tirade such as he had never before heard burst forth from his mother’s lips as though a gardyloo from a the window of a tenement.

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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.

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