Geese Make The Best Toilet Paper

Going waaaaaaaay back before the Victorians today with a small quotation from Rabelais's Gargantua, a sixteenth-century French satirical novel about a giant. I had first heard this quotation from QI (Series G, Episode "G-Animals").

The quotation occurs when Gargantua discusses with another character the best possible way to wipe one's bum. He concludes that there is no better toilet paper than a live goose. I will try to help you out with the arcane language as much as possible. He says:

"Afterwards I wiped my bum, said Gargantua, with a kerchief, with a pillow, with a pantoufle [slipper], with a pouch, with a pannier, but that was a wicked and unpleasant torchecul [bottom-wiping experience]; then with a hat. Of hats, note that some are shorn, and others shaggy, some velveted, others covered with taffeties [pieces of taffeta], and others with satin. The best of all these is the shaggy hat, for it makes a very neat abstersion of the fecal matter.

"Afterwards I wiped my tail with a hen, with a cock, with a pullet [a hen less than one year old], with a calf's skin, with a hare, with a pigeon, with a cormorant, with an attorney's bag, with a montero [a round hunter's cap], with a coif [a hairdo, probably meaning a wig], with a falconer's lure [a device, usually made of feathers, used to recall young hawks in falconry]. But, to conclude, I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs [bottom-wiping experiences], arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose."

My only issue is this–on QI they definitely seemed to treat it like Rabelais was being serious. I think someone at that show probably didn't realize the book was a vaguely comedic one. However, I will freely admit that I have never read it, so this very well could be a serious passage where Rabelais includes a bit of advice from personal experience. Somehow I doubt it.

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