Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Reader J Seinfeld of New York writes:

“When you’re a kid, it’s all about candy. The only thought I had growing up was ‘get candy, get candy, get candy’. Family, friends, school – these are all just obstacles in the way of getting more candy.”

Thanks J, but I have to disagree. You may have a point across the whole kid population, but when you’re a boy kid there really is only one thing on your mind. That thing isn’t candy. It’s poo.

And if there is ever a second thing on your mind, it will be toilets.

Remember the nursery rhyme What Are Little Boys Made Of? In case you’re not old enough, it’s the most famous work by Robert Southey (1774-1843). This is slightly embarrassing for him, because he was England’s Poet Laureate for 30 years. Still his boss Queen Victoria, a hater of all things flamboyant, called it a “tour de force”.

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails.
That’s what little boys are made of.

After six more years of pondering wistfully like a good Victorian romantic, all on the taxpayers’ tab, Southey completed a second verse:

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.

Southey was close to the mark but under "boys" he didn’t quite nail it. It might have scandalised 19th century England but he should’ve got poo in there somewhere.

The poet Southey, caught
here away with the fairies.
He won a place in the
hearts of millions in the
19th century through his
tender use of the written
word. And later by
playing Kramer in

If you listen to a group of boys speaking – for accuracy we should narrow the sample group down to boys who can talk – you’ll hear the subject arise as sure as wipe follows poop.

It doesn’t go away easily either. Age shall not weary a good poop joke. Just as men are responsible for all the wars in the world, we are also responsible for all the poop and fart jokes committed in dozens of countries across the globe every single day.

But it is most prevalent amongst the young. We see this in our children. Lani, 6, cracks many jokes, but none of them have ever gone near a toilet. Evie, 5, associates with boys rather than girls. Apart from moldy fruit, all she brings home from school is jokes about poo, and toilets, and wee, and more poo. The grubbier the better. If the element of someone winding up with a No.2 on their face can be worked in, it’s comedy gold my friend. She’s like some out-of-control Charlie Chaplin, had the Little Tramp not flung custard pies at his co-stars but handfuls of excrement.

I will concede Lani last night made me say what sounded like ‘underwear’ with the ruse of having me look for a non-existent thing beneath another thing. “Under where?” says the hapless straight guy, to uproarious laughter. If it was the boy-tainted Evie telling it, without a shred of doubt the underwear would have been full of poo.

Evie went on one of her story-telling rants the other day. She was imagining life as a Power Ranger, from the popular superhero TV series. How would she save the world from aliens? Not with brawn, she said, but with her brain. I sobbed uncontrollably with tears of pride.

“Good for you!” I said, asking how in particular she would contrive a solution.

“I’d invent a machine that makes them poo in their own FACE!” she shouted.

Before she could draw her prototype, Evie got distracted with another story about the boy who is her best friend, fiancé, and clearly her muse. Oliver is an ebullient and imaginative Australian lad, who whilst suffering an insecurity which involves a daily check of Evie’s marriage plans, is blessed with super powers. Evie insisted this was the case. Or one super power at least.

"And what might that be?” I asked.

“He can make toilets appear anywhere he wants!”

I had to admit, it’s not a bad power to have in Beijing.

Last night came the rollicking tale of Oliver getting caught in a tornado, which apparently happened in tornado hotspot Japan.

“And he got sucked up and up and up!” Evie said.


“Yeah. And he went round and round and round!”


“Yeah. And then he went ‘HEEEYAH!’ and he chopped the tornado in half!”


“Yeah! And then, and then, and then ... HE FELL IN THE TOILET!”

Cue more laughter, rolling on the floor, et cetera. I merely had to add that there were probably several toilets getting blown around in the tornado and I was the funniest daddy there was. Well, I’m not going to get anywhere quoting Noel Coward, am I?

Needless to say, were they old enough to watch the news, most five-year-olds would be calling this 'underpants bomb' that's making headlines at the moment the story of the century.

Evie's expression of her grand vision.

A toilet lying in wait, yesterday. Contrary to
one funny story, they were not invented by
anyone called "Crapper".

Thomas Crapper merely invented
improvements such as a well
functioning cistern with a ballcock.
But his name was plastered all over
them. The word "crap", however, was
used for bodily waste well before
Crapper came along.

The toilet at Akmal's House of Curry, Beijing. 

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the evidence is skewed by Evie's class in particular. At one stage things got so bad her teacher instituted a "No poo-poo" day, in which the class promised to go a whole day without anyone mentioning those words. It was abandoned at around 9.15am.

I know parents who say their daughters are also potty obsessed but let's be realistic. Overwhelmingly, this is where a girl is most likely to first hear the words "It's a guy thing". Take my little friend Jon. When he was four I took my then-girlfriend Jennifer around to meet his family. Jon fell in love with Jennifer straight away, despite a 26-year age gap, and within an hour was proposing they should cement their relationship in the best way he knew.

"Jennifer can you come and wipe my bottom for me?" he said. Not even a mention of dinner and a movie.

I sometimes try to learn the workings of a child’s mind by asking mine what’s going through theirs. Quite often the reply comes that they are, in fact, just “staring straight ahead”, waiting for the next thought to arrive, which I think is genetic. Sometimes I’ll get an enlightening answer.

I asked Evie: “What is it about toilets and poo and wee that's so funny?”

She said the classic five-year-old’s answer. “They just are!”

The best this amateur child psychologist can offer is that perhaps it involves the power to produce something of your own making, seemingly from nothing. Then there’s the power to make it disappear with the push of a button. (Hands up if you don't secretly still love pushing buttons.) Plus, it all vanishes into this mystical, unseen place which could well be hell. No, actually it’s probably the funniest place there is. A land of countless poops. Infinity funny.

Now there's a whole industry of the icky. At a children's book sale is saw titles including Captain Underpants, The Bare Bum Gang, Help – I’m Trapped In My Best Friend’s Nose, The World’s Itchiest Pants, The World’s Biggest Bogey and Who Pooped In The Park?

This gave me a great idea, lending from British humorist Alan Coren. In 1976, he learned the books that sold best involved golf, cats and Nazis. He then put out a book called Golfing for Cats with a Swastika on the front.

So, watch out for my forthcoming best-seller Captain Poobum and the Toilet Booger Gang. Perhaps I could set myself up as a children’s rapper called Sir Fartalot. Or I could pursue the noble goals of enticing kids to read and making a million dollars by slightly modifying some well known books. How about The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Water Closet? Or Harry Potty (and the Chamber Pot of Secrets?) There could be Hop on Poop, or Plop on Pop. And surely it’s not just me who sniggers at Winnie the Pooh.

Or we could introduce young readers to the classics such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Outhouse on the Prairie, Tolstoy’s War and Pee-Pees, and Proust’s Remembrances of Things Passed.

Genius. It sold a
flipping million!

I went "online" to research all this. I was bemused, and had my schoolboy smut sensibilities offended, to see that the Koreans lay claim to having the most poo-obsessed kids in the world. Poo, poo, poo, kimchee and poo.

But further down, the Japanese hit back. They have a cartoon character who’s a turd. He’s called Unchikun. Unchi is “poop”. Kun is an honorific for a young friend. I thought the Chinese were bad for having a cartoon character called Xi Yang Yang, which translates as “Pleasant Goat”. Here, can I present to you the cutest thing in Japanese cartoon characters – Poop Friend.

Cute little guy, isn't he?

The ultimate in poop-shaped candy dispensers ...

... plus a whole range of merchandise
including poo jewelry for the special
lady in your life.

The coveted "Golden Turd", only awarded once every seven
years according to ancient Japanese tradition.

What the hell? When I was a kid we were happy enough to watch cute little animals or adorable sailormen belt the crap out of each other. I must admit I don’t know what Unchikun does, or how he saves the world. Maybe he does it through sublimely peaceful means. He could be the Ghandi of bowel movements. The UN might make him an ambassador for something shortly.

What is clear is his creators have seen a market, one which thrives on what is possibly the oldest absolute truth in human history: Boys love poop.

(Editor's note: It seemed like there were a lot of references to Seinfeld in this post, didn't it? But I can confirm I am not being paid by NBC to mention the show. It was all a coincidence. First, I mentioned Seinfeld in the first paragraph. Then Southey came into it. I had no idea what he looked like, and then bingo - he looked like Kramer. Bizarre, no? You can hear more about this and other behind-the-scenes revelations in the forthcoming two-hour Discovery Channel special The Making of The Tiger Father's Piece on Poo and Wee, to be aired at 8.30pm on Sunday, May 27.)

1 comment:

  1. This is the best blog post about poo that I've read all morning.