|Cutting turf in Co. Westmeath, Ireland|
(photo by Fiona MacGinty)
Noun. Middle English.
[Gaelic (and Irish) bogach, from bog soft.]
(A tract of) wet, spongy ground too soft to support heavy body; ECOLOGY wet land with acid, peaty soil. Compare with fen.
Also: bogginess noun boggy quality. M17. boggy adjective of the nature of, or characterized by, bog. L16
|Ah school toilets. The memories ...|
(photo by Phineas Jones)
Noun. Colloquial. Mid-17th century.
[Origin uncertain: perhaps same word as preceding.]
A privy, a lavatory. Originally as bog-house (now archaic).
|A boggin' tractor bogged down in a bog|
(photo by TeeJayBee)
Verb trans. and intrans. Inflected -gg-. Early 17th century.
[from BOG noun.]
Sink or submerge in a bog (literally or figuratively).
Frequently in passive and followed by down.I have bad memories of bogs. At the age when secondary school was looming, I was regaled with horror stories by my older brothers about how new kids are initiated by having their "heads flushed down the toilet". Granted, it never happened, but the school toilets, "the bogs", were no less a place of sheer horror, somewhere that would be visited only when absolutely necessary, and somewhere that, once used, would never leave you feeling clean again (at least until you went home and had a bath).
The bogs stank, you see, far worse than any natural bog, although there were a few similarities. Like a natural bog, the school bogs had standing pools of fetid liquid, and if you lost something in the school bogs (like a shoe), you'd be ill-advised to go back in looking for it. Both are also home to a variety of wildlife, particularly moulds, fungi and insects. Unlike natural bogs, however, school bogs are privy to extensive 'logging' operations and have more graffiti, nausea and noxious fumes. And the fumes are noxious - there is something deeply unearthly about the potent mix of urine, excrement and lemon-scented cleaning fluid, something that simultaneously stings the eyes and burns the soul.
Natural bogs are places of beauty, however, which is odd as the connection of bog (a type of wetland) and bog (a disgusting toilet) seems so appropriate, although the etymological connection is tenuous, according to the OED. Its root is in the Gaelic bogach, which is fitting as bogs are still an important part of Ireland, both economically and ecologically. Dried turf from bogs is still burnt as fuel in many rural houses, and in the cities every petrol station and local shop will sell solid peat briquettes which are burnt in fireplaces. For many visitors, the smell of burning peat is part of Ireland's flavour, a pleasing and welcoming smell that tells of warm homes and fireside chats.
And if you're wondering (and who hasn't?) what the difference is between a bog, a fen, and a swamp, steady yourself, because you're about to find out: in a bog, the water comes mainly from precipitation, the soil is acidic and low in nutrients, and the flora is largely made up of moss; in a fen, some of the water comes from streams and groundwater, the soil is alkali and higher in nutrients, and they often look like meadows; in a swamp, the wetland is usually adjacent to a river or other body of water and it is forested. So there. Now we all know, and that vital piece of trivia that has escaped us our entire lives has been set into our synapses.
|The Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ireland|
(photo by David Bergin)
Is bog slang for toilet where you're from?
If not, is some other natural feature sullied in this way?
Do you live, work, play or frolic in a bog?
Do please leave your wettest, peatiest and mossiest comments below.