Crappy Diem

Crappy Diem image.JPG

Today we have a sign to show you.  The photo was taken of the door of a men’s room in Grand Rapids, MI.

As you go through your day, you see many messages: signs in stores, billboards on the highway, or bumper stickers on cars.  Oftentimes, Americans use these as opportunities to employ humor.  If you don’t get it, don’t worry; just ask your friends, “What’s so funny?”  In American culture, most people are happy to explain things to you.

Do you understand the joke on this sign?  It involves a foreign language and a famous American movie.  In Latin, the expression Carpe diem means "Seize the day."  It means we should take advantage of each moment as it comes (because life is short and we may not have a second chance).  The saying was made famous in a 1989 movie called Dead Poets Society.  In the movie, an English teacher (played by Robin Williams) encourages his students to live boldly, and he teaches them the expression, Carpe diem.

The funny sign maker changed the word "carpe" to "crappy" because the word "crap" is slang for "feces" (solid waste material in the toilet).  In American English, the expression "to go" is a euphemism (polite way to say something unpleasant) for "to use the toilet."

Americans will chuckle at the sign because of the clever play on words.  They also appreciate the wisdom of using a bathroom when it's available because sometimes you really have to "go" but a toilet isn't nearby!


Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.