Thomas Crapper

[Nominative determinism] refers to amusing instances where people’s names coincidentally reflect some aspect of their jobs, professions or lives.
– Webster’s Online Dictionary

The Great Thomas Crapper, pictured with beard.

The great Thomas Crapper is perhaps one of the greatest examples of nominative determinism (along with hurdler Marina Stepanova).

Thomas Crapper, of course, worked with toilets. Contrary to popular myth, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, nor was the word “crap” derived from his name (it existed for hundreds of years before his birth). What he did do was greatly contribute to the popularization of the modern commode with his company Thomas Crapper & Co., which among other things installed lavatories to the dwellings of at least two kings of England. Crapper also allegedly invented the ballcock, of which I will say no more (I’ll be over there giggling if you need me), and took out nine plumbing patents in his career.

Thomas Crapper was born in 1836 as the son of a sailor. His brother was a master plumber in London and trained young Thomas in his work. He founded his own company in the late 1800s and very successfully promoted the toilet at a time when sanitary plumbing and such were quite rare.  So we can thank him for that.

The company was eventually sold after Crapper’s death and discontinued, until a heroic figure in the guise of one Simon Kirby, a British historian, acquired the brand and started manufacturing authentic reproductions of Crapper crappers in the 1990s. A wonderful deed for historical bathroom enthusiasts (they must be out there somewhere) and funnynameologists alike.

Thomas Crapper’s life’s work, complete with ballcock.

Credit for making Crapper such a mythical figure  attached to all sorts of urban legends perhaps belongs to writer Wallace Reyburn, who in 1969 wrote a fictional biography of Crapper entitled Flushed with Pride (a companion work to his Bust-Up : The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra – seriously, it’s a real book).

Plunging the depths of a historical figure’s biography can bog us down a little, but when it’s a joyous figure like Thomas Crapper whose life was flush with excitement, it makes our work all the more fun. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names. www.funnynamesblog.wordpress.com
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16 Responses to Thomas Crapper

    • Dave says:

      Glad to hear it! Arto’s writing tends to be slightly funnier than mine, but I make up for it with grit and determination and an increased sense of analysis 🙂

  1. I know what a ballcock is. It’s a bit embarrassing to ask where they are kept when the store clerk is a smartass like me.

    • Dave says:

      Haha, I think that’s partly why I adopt a policy of “never ask and never know” with things like that. I just feel like I couldn’t regain my dignity after asking someone where I could find a ballcock 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    I don’t know how, but you always seem to find the best ridiculously long book titles… It’s a gift, my friend.

  3. Gosh, how long have you been running this site and only now you get to Mr Crapper? Great post, as always.
    Marti

    • Dave says:

      I know… it took us too long. I think I was avoiding it because I didn’t know how to write humorously and with any semblance of dignity about scatological themes, but Arto pulled it off perfectly. Just straight talk, bringing a reference to a hilariously named book, not dwelling on anything, and making “plunging” “bog” and “flush” puns in the last paragraph. The guy has a gift.

  4. The Hook says:

    What can I say? Great selection!

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