The English are stereotyped as being very reserved people, not always saying exactly what they mean. Well, this idiom is perhaps a good example of that. It’s all about how we say we want to go to the WC (Water Closet – vano adibito a servizio igienico). We may say it like this:
“I’m just going to the toilet.”
“Where’s the loo?” (“loo” is a very common colloquial word for WC)
“Where’s David?” “Oh, he’s gone to the loo.”
“Is there a washroom here?” (used more in the USA)
“I’m just going to spend a penny!”
I know the origins of this idiom without doing any research! I remember when I was a child that if you wanted to use a public toilet it cost one penny, so you always had to have a penny in your pocket in case you needed the loo! Nowadays the phrase is used to say you need to go to a WC, but in a less obvious way!
We often put “just” in the phrase meaning “semplicemente.”
You might say:
- “I’m just off to spend a penny.”
- “I’ll be back in a moment, I just need to spend a penny.”
- “See you here in a minute – I’m just going to spend a penny.”
Can you use this phrase this week?
Thanks Anita for the suggestion to explain this very useful idiom!
The English Tree team