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Over Or Under? Original Patent Resolves The Great Toilet Roll Debate

Over Or Under? Original Patent Resolves The Great Toilet Roll Debate

It's one of the great mysteries of the modern world - which way round are you meant to hang to a toilet roll on the holder? So the paper feeds over? Or so it hangs under?

Surprisingly, given that it doesn't really matter, the 'over or under' debate has really become a very passionate sticking point for people over the years - but then again, that's what the Internet does, isn't it?

Anyway, turns out there was no need for anybody to argue or debate about which way you're meant to hang you toilet paper, because the answer has been there in front of us for over a century.

Not literally in front of us, obviously, but there's a patent which dates from 1891 for a 'wrapping or toilet paper roll' that shows designs for bog roll with tear-off sheets. And guess what? The sheets are hanging over, not under.

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That, then, is the debate settle once and for all, right? No. Of course not. Don't be silly. You know - just because the Earth has been proved by science to be spherical doesn't mean that it isn't flat. Well, yes it does, but try telling that to some people.

Snopes - that great internet bullshit detector - doesn't call into question the veracity of the patent, which seems to be genuine, but it does wonder whether the images within it are just for illustrative purposes.

After all, there's no mention of which way the roll is supposed to hang in the wording of the document by patent author Seth Wheeler.

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"In carrying out my invention the sheets of paper are only partially separated, having their points of attachment arranged in a novel manner," he states, "whereby each sheet will easily separate from the series as it is drawn from the roll, there being no litter occasioned, and any waste of paper is thereby prevented."


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And while you'd probably assume toilet roll was supposed to hang the way it's shown in the image, the author of the Snopes article does make this valid point:

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"Many pundits also noted that the image and its corresponding patent lacked a crucial bit of information: it bore no indication of where the mounting area lay in relation to the roll.

"Some might argue that the although the toilet paper roll was deliberately depicted in a clearly outward-facing manner, that presentation was necessary to fully illustrate the functionality Wheeler sought to patent.

"In that respect the image merely represented the least obstructed view of the perforations involved, not a definitive answer as to whether Wheeler favored either toilet paper orientation as the 'correct' one."

It looks like the debate will run on, after all.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: World News

Mischa Pearlmen

Mischa is a freelance journalist usually based in either New York or London. He has written for Kerrang!, Record Collector, NME, the New York Observer and FLOOD magazine, among others. Contact him at [email protected]