Toilet culture in Xi’an

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From Francis Miller:

The notice says:

xiǎobiàn rù chí


"urine enters the pool", i.e., "pee into the urinal"

Xiǎobiàn 小便 is usually a noun ("urine; pee; piss"), though it can also be a verb ("urinate; pass water; to pee; to piss").  Here, however, because the following word, rù 入 ("enter") is the verb, xiǎobiàn 小便 has to be nominal.  Hence, "(as for) pee[ing], [have / cause it] to enter the pool", i.e., "pee into the urinal" — not on the floor / wall / etc.

Selected readings

N.B.:  the number of Language Log posts on toilets, urinals, urination is so great that it would be fruitless to attempt to list them all.  Here I give only a few that are most relevant for this post.  Several of them have more or less lengthy bibliographies that can lead to additional readings.


  1. Jerry Packard said,

    September 25, 2022 @ 11:56 am

    Doesn’t it really mean ‘pee into the water (within the urinal)’ , as opposed to on the porcelain of the urinal, in which case it would splash?

  2. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    September 26, 2022 @ 7:44 am

    "the number of Language Log posts on toilets, urinals, urination is so great that it would be fruitless to attempt to list them all."

    …and that's why we keep coming back, Professor Mair!

    Really, though, to truly investigate language qua universal power that separates us from the animals, doesn't this _deserve_ further investigation? I mean, you can only get so far with words about respiration and mastication, and not every culture shares a tradition of wearing pants.

  3. Francis Boyle said,

    September 26, 2022 @ 8:55 am

    Not about language specifically but communication in general: It took me several seconds to parse the icon because my brain was thrown off by the pointless decorative border. I'm not sure why it was felt necessary. Maybe it's a case of visual euphemism.

  4. Terry Hunt said,

    September 27, 2022 @ 10:57 am

    @ Jerry Packard – perhaps urinals (as opposed to WC pedestals) are different in your part of the World, but in UK urinals, there is (barring blockages) usually no standing water (or other liquid): it all drains away fairly rapidly. In fact, peeing at a shallow angle on to the vertical or near vertical sides of a urinal (whether a porcelain bowl or a large sheet-metal backplate-and-trough, results in less splashing that peeing into the more-nearly horizontal bottom, with or without standing liquid.

  5. Jerry Packard said,

    September 27, 2022 @ 2:06 pm

    Terry – I consider myself edified.

  6. Philip Taylor said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 3:08 am

    "results in less splashing" — less, but definitely not none. Those who believe that a modern urinal, sensibly used, will protect the user from splash-back onto his trousers, should try using one while wearing (short, 5cm in-seam) shorts …

  7. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 7:25 am

    Ah, but Philip, that's where trigonometry comes to save the day! You see, once you have h(t) = Vo • t − 1/2 • 32 • t^2, then it's just a question of adjusting your initial angle and velocity and you will be able to stand several feet behind the "splash zone". Don't worry, once you whip out your protractor in the men's room, you will be given plenty of space.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 10:38 am

    "several feet" — I stand in awe of your detrusor expulsive force, Benjamin — a quick check (admittedly with a less than full bladder) suggests that I might manage 34 inches on a good day !

  9. Jerry Packard said,

    September 28, 2022 @ 8:20 pm

    …you youngsters…

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