The big squat

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The following photograph has been in my draft folder for about five years:

I forget who sent the photograph to me, but it came with this note:

The attached, from a bar in the Houhai area in Beijing, is an interesting Engrish sign where I think the English, though a mess, is better than the Chinese, since the Chinese left out the crucial piece of information that the dumping should occur in the public toilet 10 meters away, not just 10 meters away – the bar next door might be in for quite a surprise!

Here's what the Chinese says:

qǐng wù dàdūn 请勿大蹲
("please don't do the big squat")

dàbiàn qǐng chūmén yòu guǎi shí mǐ 大便请出门右拐10米
("for the 'major convenience' go out the door and turn right for ten meters")

xièxiè hézuò 谢谢合作
("thanks for your cooperation")

I don't think that dàdūn 大蹲 ("the big squat") is a very common way to refer to number two.  An alternative that is preferable to some of my acquaintances is dàjiě 大解 ("the great untying / unbinding / uncoiling / unfastening / loosening / dispelling / [dis]solution").

It seems that the plumbing and sewage systems in that part of Beijing, viz., the fashionable Houhai district, are inadequate, since we also came upon similar signs that were posted in the rest room of a cafe in that area: "The big deal " (9/20/11).

Here the signs are humorously alluding to the fact that their pipes could only handle the minor convenience, not the major one (xiǎobiàn 小便, dàbiàn 大便).  If you are not familiar with these old (ultimately from Sanskrit) euphemisms for urination and defecation that have become the most common terms for these actions in Mandarin, you can get an introduction from this post and the embedded links: "Greater and lesser conveniences " (6/25/14).

Sometimes when you need the conveniences most, you may experience considerable inconvenience, especially with the major one.

[Thanks to Fangyi Cheng]


  1. Sockatume said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 8:27 am

    I wonder if this is the origin of the British English idiom "public convenience", or whether that's just convergence.

  2. Fabian said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 8:41 am

    BTW in German it's very common (in particular for children) to use 'small and big business' (kleines und großes Geschäft) as euphemisms for urination and defecation. It's often shortened to just 'small' or 'big' (ich muss mal klein/groß).

  3. richardelguru said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 1:12 pm

    Bit OTish, but in a couple of parks in the US I've seen what I think is by far the best euphemism "COMFORT STATION". If it doesn't provide comfort for the discomforted what use is it?

  4. anonymous coward said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

    The canonical (polite) Russian phrase would be 'малая/большая нужда' ('lesser/greater need'). I wonder if it's any relation to the Chinese and Sanskrit phrases.

    There's also the set phrase 'справить нужду' — 'correct the need'. (The word 'справить' in this context seems very archaic.)

  5. Brett said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

    @richardelguru: I figured "comfort station" was a euphemism adopted from some other variety of English.

  6. Calvin said,

    August 12, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    Historically, there have been quite a few euphemisms for these two body functions. These are some that I could find:

    大便/小便 (defecation/urination) -《史記索隱》(司馬貞): “前溲謂小便;後溲,大便也。”
    大解/小解 (defecation/urination) - from 解手 (untying hands), originated from the forced migration in early Ming dynasty
    出恭 (defecation) – originated from signage 出恭, 入敬 in imperial examination

  7. K. Chang said,

    August 13, 2015 @ 9:34 pm

    Another euphemism is "going to Number One / Number Two". 去大號/二號

    There was a joke in Taiwan about the major /minor convenience, but you need to realize that in Taiwan, probably from Japanese "bento", Taiwanese lunchboxes (that can be steamed) is called 便當, so the joke is 大便當飯,小便當菜

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