According to a popular legend, the word crap comes from Thomas Crapper, the supposed inventor of the flush toilet. The story goes that Crapper’s name was stamped on all his lavatorial devices, and when servicemen in World War I went to the latrine they would say, “I’m goin’ to the crapper”—a word that gradually shortened to the colloquial profanity. Logical as it sounds, it isn’t true.
In reality, crap comes from the Old French crappe, meaning waste. And though Crapper, an English plumber and engineer, did help develop the ballcock (the apparatus inside the toilet tank that allows the water to flush), he most definitely did not invent the flush toilet (that happened in 1596), and never had his name stamped on it. That story about WWI servicemen is in fact just a load of nonsense. Nevertheless, every year on January 27, the anniversary of Crapper’s death, people rejoice in a celebration of all things scatological. On Thomas Crapper Day 2007, an Arizona park ranger led a hike in Estrella Mountain Regional Park identifying different types of animal poop.
On Crapper Day 2010, a New York coffee shop offered discounts to customers who donated a roll of toilet paper to charity. For a time, plumbers of distinction could even qualify for a special Crapper Day “Crapper Award,” issued by the “Justice for Thomas Crapper Committee”—a now- defunct organization devoted to promoting Crapper’s legacy, myth or not.