Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Newspapers and Toilets

It seems to me that there is a plethora of choice in newspapers in this country. Ones from Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, other English cities, "national" newspapers, and then the little local ones. Perhaps this is the result of several nations being united as one, the United Kingdom. Maybe it's a result of there being 60 million people in the UK compared to Canada's 30 million. But then there's only 5 million people in Scotland and it has two newspapers claiming to be national ones - Edinburgh's The Scotsman and Glasgow's The Herald. Canada only has two newspapers that claim to be national - The Globe and Mail and The National Post - and they're both out of the same city.

Given that there are so many newspapers in Scotland, I'm inclined to believe that Scots (and you can extend this to the English as well) simply buy more newspapers than Canadians. That's not to say that Scots are more interested in the news, as there is, in addition to the "broadsheet" newspapers, an astonishing number of what I would term "trashy" newspapers. These papers boldly proclaim that they cost only 10 to 15p (broadsheets cost from 65p to £1). The "trashy" newspapers pretty much focus on a few news headlines done sensationally (murders are a favourite topic), then there's celebrity gossip and sport.

These papers also inevitibly have a page 3 girl, like any newspaper called The Sun in Canada does (and many are called Sun over here as well). The difference is that the page 3 girls over here are photographed topless, a sight that astonished my innocent Islander eyes when I first flipped through a copy of The Scottish Sun. I expected that from certain magazines, but not from anything claiming to be news that you could just buy at the supermarket. The Scottish Sun even ran a competition with a spread of topless photos of contestants for page 3. To my amusement, next to each girl's topless photo they printed a smaller photo of her wearing a bikini top, which seemed rather pointless in an after-the-fact sort of way. Then there's the Scottish Sport, a paper that doesn't limit itself to page 3 for toplessness. It also presents little sport news, and much more of the topless news.

The UK often gets a reputation for being a bit old-fashioned and stiff, but their newspapers make Canada look prudish. Another way that Canadians seem prudish compared to Scots is that we always ask where the "washroom" or "bathroom" is, instead of the "toilets" as is done over here. Signs are labelled with "toilets" on them, or just the singular form. You say "I'm going to the toilet" even in polite conversation, whereas I was trained from the time I was a child to say "I'm going to the bathroom" and it seems a little inproper to me to say the former.

I remember learning how to ask that in French class. All us nine-year-old kids were a bit taken aback at asking to go to the toilet as it seemed too direct on such a taboo subject. Canadians, I think, don't like to say that we're going to the toilet because that tells everyone exactly what we're going to do: use the toilet. By saying that we're going to the "bathroom" (even when there's no bath in it) we can pretend that we're going to do something else other than use the toilet, even though all parties involved in the conversation know otherwise. Scots, on the other hand, have no problem admitting that they're going to use the toilet.

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