This trope is when literary writing is seen as such poor quality that it's only fit to be used as toilet paper (or similar undignified uses). Sometimes it really is that bad, but a common variation is an illiterate or less cultured person using a book for toilet paper or kindling because he genuinely can't see any other use for it. In this version, don't be surprised if the book was a gift from an intellectual character. This is often a comedy trope, but not always. Saying another person treats a given text like toilet paper can be serious, depending on how serious the text in question is. A politician who says a rival "may as well be wiping his rear with the Constitution" is asking for a fight. If the text in question is real, there's often an element of Take That! present. Before the availability of cheap purpose-made toilet paper, people commonly used old paper for wiping purposes. The rural outhouse with last year's mail-order catalog hanging next to the seat is Truth in Television, but not this trope because the catalog had value, it's just on its final cycle of usefulness. Compare to Priceless Paperweight.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- Implied in a joke from Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, showing a bookstore next to a pet store with the comment that you don't want to know where unsold manga ends up.
- The Storybook Opening of Shrek ends with the title character tearing off a page of the book. The next shot is him coming out of an outhouse, making the implication clear.
- Dances with Wolves: After Dunbar goes native his journal is found by some illiterate soldiers and used for toilet paper.
- Airheads: A disgruntled band is holding a radio station hostage, and one of their demands is a record contract. Once they get one, the leader realizes the terms are pretty poor and shows his displeasure by wiping his ass with the contract.
- There's a couple of references to this in Discworld. It's indicated that the only book Cohen the Barbarian had ended up as toilet paper. Also, the Discworld Almanac indicates that the work, existing in-series is used as toilet paper by the people of Lancre- basically, they don't have a lot of use for a book recounting their superstitions and farming techniques.
- In The Royal Changeling by John Whitbourn, the hero's wife tells her eldest son to take a particular letter and place it will it will do the most good, i.e. in the privy.
- At one point in The Belgariad, Queen Layla subtly invokes this trope when she uses a treaty to wipe jam off the face of her youngest child. (The ambassador gets the message, but can't call her out on it.)
- Space: Above and Beyond: In at least one episode, a character take a copy of Stars and Stripes (a US military newspaper) with him to the latrine, with a jokey tone strongly implying they're not planning to read it.
- Salute Your Shorts: One episode has Sponge trying to hand out issues of his camp newspaper. Donkeylips asks for one, then blows his nose on it. Another episode has Deena signing (unwanted) autographs on anything handy after finding out she's gotten the lead in the camp's play, including Donkeylips' napkin. He just shrugs and blows his nose on it anyway.
- In Warhammer40000 the Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer is commonly known in universe as "emergency toilet paper."
- Older Than Television- in Cyrano de Bergerac, baker and wannabe poet Ragueneau has his works used to hold pastries by his more practical wife.
- World of Warcraft: A quest in Theramore has you trying to discredit some dissidents undermining Lady Proudmoore with "creatively edited" versions of their flyers. One of the reactions you can get handing them out is that it might be useful in the latrine.
- On Family Guy, Peter discovers that there's no toilet paper, but is then relieved that there are some Entertainment Weekly issues nearby. (At the time, Entertainment Weekly had Family Guy in its list of worse TV series of the year.)
- Rudolph Louis (music critic for the Muchner Neuste Nachrichten) wrote an uncomplimentary review of one of composer Max Reger's works. Reger wrote to Louis:
I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.
- Count Dmitry Khvostov self-published his poetry because publishing houses refused to. There's a Russian story claiming Ivan Krylov was once in dire need of something for wiping purposes while outside, and was "saved" when the count drove past with some copies of his latest book.
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