Dear Cecil:
In reference to http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/572/what-did-people-use-before-toilet-paper-was-invented

It is my understanding that when using the corn cobs, you had to keep a variety of cobs handy. Such as red one and white ones. You would use a couple of red ones then use a white to check to see if you needed another red one and so on. Thanks for enlightening me on other possible choices.
Bubba Coondog in MO

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Bubba Coondog, glad you found us. And thanks for that comment… er, I think. Sometimes, it’s more information than I really wanted. :slight_smile:

FWIW: The Mojave Desert is frequently windy, and certain times of the year there is a lot of convective action. Dad would describe conditions as ‘rough as a cob’ (i.e., lots of turbulence). I grokked that corn cobs were rough, but it was a long time before I learned that people wiped with them.

Eric newby in “a short walk in the Hindu Hush” describes sharp stones being used for this purpose by Afghans. No wonder they have a reputation for toughness!

Sears Catalog

Yes, as noted in the column.

ISTR recall a translation of an early book of advice for daily Moslem living by the Ayatollah Khomeini, in which he recommended that dried bones (of cows or goats? It’s been a long time, I don’t remember) be used to wipe one’s posterior.

I think I’ll keep using Charmin.

There’s a reason you do not eat or touch someone with your left hand in some parts of the world.

What’s the difference unless they wear a glove on the left hand? Don’t they put their hands together doing things, eg, praying? What about the people who kneads dough?

It’s not exactly an ideal solution, is it.

Incidentally, in the sentence “And you guys think I’m a kink,” could an editor italicize the word I’m?

The entire paragraph beginning “Later in my trip I sought the services…” should be in ital, too.

I’ve seen Andrew Zimmern in his escapades around the world eating crazy foods. He’s left handed and is constantly reminded in those places where you eat with your hands, to STOP DOING THAT WITH THAT HAND. But he still can’t get it right and so they are polite enough to just let him do it. Even when it’s a communal plate that everyone eats from.

You are correct – and all has been corrected. Thanks for the catch.

Glad to. Thanks for your prompt fix.

Beats poison ivy leaves. :eek:

1.) This apparently explains an odd WW II movie dialogue exchange I heard years ago, in which an older Army colonel was inspecting a line of his troops in tropical pith helmets and khaki.

“How’s the training, soldier?” He asked a beefy private.

“Rough as a cob, sir,” came the reply, earning a disapproving glare from the sergeant accompanying the colonel.

“That’s alright, sergeant,” the colonel said, “It’s a fine expression, I use it sometimes myself.”

2.) Traveling through Italy at age 21, many years ago, I stopped at a gas station to use the facility. It was an ancient pull-the-chain affair, with a newspaper cut into 4/4" squares and impaled on a spike providing the paper. I made do, and some miles down the road noticed My hand was black from printers’ ink (which never fully dries, I’ve been told). This, of course, caused more thought along a line of simple reasoning, to the revelation of another problem associated with the use of recycled print expedients.

It appears I’ve lived a sheltered life.

The Romans developed a stream fed trough toilet and provided sea sponges on sticks for the purpose mentioned, if you weren’t careful in the dark you might reach down and grab the wrong end; giving rise to the phrase " getting the s#!tty end of the stick".

Jerry In Canada

Username up for grabs:

Rufus A. Cobb

I worked in Indonesia throughout the 80’s and 90’s- the fourth largest country on earth- with a population of some 240 million souls. There are gleaming hotels and shopping malls in the capital Jakarta, but very soon in the suburbs and shanty towns, things are a little different. The majority of lower class toilets are but a pottery hole in the floor, and there you squat. There is no paper, not even newspaper! (Who can afford this luxury?) You use your left hand- and there is a plastic pail with a larger bucket of well water close at hand. The soap ( if there is soap) is always very heavily perfumed with floral tones. You are expected to reserve your right hand for greeting and for eating with. In fact it is a slur if you point with your left hand, or summon anyone with it.
I am sure this is what you did before corn on the cobs became currency. Maize, as we are told, only came with Columbus. In ancient Rome they used a sponge on a stick dipped in vinegar. (That would make your eyes water on a frosty morning, I feel sure).

Much part of Asia I know still uses water instead of paper. I think that we too would have used water had we not had used toilet paper.

My late grandmother used to tell us kids just how good we had it. I’m sure everyone has heard the line, “In my day, I had to walk five miles to school.” Well, she would also tell us about using the outhouse during the wee hours of a January morning and yes, the corn cob was the item used for cleaning up afterwards.