Urinal cakes: Flushing it out – “Nothing’s wasted if it’s human”


I was recently told more than one story about someone who seems to have a sick and unnatural obsession with urinal cakes (that is, removing urinal cakes from urinals and throwing them around in a public place – like a bar). Yeah, no details, but my thinking was less about how disgusting and freaky this quirk of obsessively handling urinal cakes and more about how the word “urinal” is pronounced.

In American English, we say /ˈjʊr.ən.əl/and in UK English they say /jʊˈraɪ.nəl/. Have a listen. Hearing “urinal” the UK way in the course of hearing the aforementioned story, I almost spit my coffee out all over the place. I had heard it before but had somehow forgotten how it sounded – the stress being on a totally different syllable. Lots of words like that between the two Englishes.

Amidst all this urinal talk, I suddenly remembered the episode of Frasier in which Niles finally gets a satisfactory divorce deal. He had labored under the false belief that his wife’s family fortune came from the timber industry. His wily lawyer discovered that the family fortune really came from urinal cakes. Niles decided to phone Maris, the soon-to-be-ex-wife, who refused to come to the phone until Niles craftily and smugly stated, “I have flushed out the family secret.” Haha. Maris immediately came to the phone.

Frasier was such a fantastic show.

Urinal-cake talk makes the brief but vivid poem “Bladder Song” from Leonard Nathan spring to mind.

Bladder Song
On a piece of toilet paper
Afloat in the unflushed piss,
The fully printed lips of a woman.

Nathan, cheer up! The sewer
Sends you a big red kiss.
Ah, nothing’s wasted, if it’s human.