In France, the word for "public urinal" is vespasienne, and this has a very interesting etymology. They were originally called colonnes Rambuteau after the Comte de Rambuteau, who ordered their installation in the 1830s. Understandably, the Comte didn't want his name associated with pissoirs, so he suggested the use of vespasienne. This was a reference to Emperor Vespasian, who ruled Rome between 69 and 79 CE. During his tenure, Vespasian ordered a tax on any urine extracted from public toilets for use in tanning. This wasn't that strange of a directive - Nero had done the same thing a decade ago - but it was particularly memorable when he responded to criticisms with the quip pecunia non olet (or "money does not stink"), drawing him even greater mockery. Rambuteau used this story to his advantage and his name was quickly dissociated from the installations.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.