Greater and lesser conveniences

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From Facebook, via Victor Steinbok, comes this notice from Shun Tak Holdings Property Management Limited:

The Chinese says:

Gù jǐ jí rén, qǐng wù suídì dàxiǎo èr biàn
"In consideration of oneself and others, please do not urinate and defecate wherever you please."

This is but the latest installment of Language Log posts on dàbiàn 大便 ("big convenience", i.e., "defecation") and xiǎobiàn 小便 ("small convenience", i.e., "urination"):


  1. John said,

    June 25, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

    I've never seen the expression 大小二便 before, only 大小便. Is it common in Hong Kong? Would people drop the 大小 and just say 二便?

  2. Jim Breen said,

    June 25, 2014 @ 5:15 pm

    大小便 is used in Japanese too. In fact the Japanese have joined the dots and regard excretion/excrement as one of the meanings of 便 . For example the 便 漢和 entry in 広辞苑 has as meaning #5: 通じ。排泄物。「便の検査」「大便・便秘・便所」

  3. Observation said,

    June 25, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

    @John: Yes, my mum says 大小二便 all the time. I haven't heard of just 二便, though.

  4. Piyush said,

    June 25, 2014 @ 11:28 pm

    Hindi (probably through Sanskrit) has the somewhat analogous euphemisms लघु शंका (ləɡʱʊ ʃəŋkäː) and दीर्घ शंका (d̪iːɽɡʱə ʃəŋkäː) (lit. "short doubt" and "long doubt").

  5. Rebecca said,

    June 26, 2014 @ 1:24 am

    Although the euphemisms are different, we apparently have the same need management directives:

  6. bfwebster said,

    June 26, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

    Apparently, they could use this sign at the EPA offices in Denver, Colorado:

  7. julie lee said,

    June 26, 2014 @ 8:09 pm

    English has one of the neatest pair of words for urination and defecation:
    "pee" and "poo".

  8. NSBK said,

    June 27, 2014 @ 11:10 am

    @julie lee
    I find it particularly appropriate that "ee" is a front vowel and "oo" is a back vowel. I may want to stop there before this analysis gets out of hand, though.

  9. Julia said,

    June 27, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

    @julie lee
    Sorry, but I have always thought "poo" and "pee" so unremittingly twee and smarmy/cute, not right for grown men and women to say. And the open vowel sound at the end of "poo" as though the thing itself is floaty and cute is worse than euphemistic.

    I think if I heard my husband use poo and pee those in reference to himself, I might have to leave him.

  10. Xmun said,

    June 27, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

    @NSBK: Thanks for brightening up my morning.

  11. DMT said,

    June 28, 2014 @ 7:52 am

    Why the "sh" in "Shun Tak"? Is that the usual pronunciation in Macao?

  12. julie lee said,

    July 1, 2014 @ 12:08 am

    I had a good chuckle at your perceptive observation.

    I still think "pee" and "poo" a very cool pair, and does credit to the English language. The latter word is appearing is San Francisco newspaper headlines (which one can Google) so they are becoming accepted adult words.

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