Pass Motion: Euphemism or Legacy English

Pass Motion

‘So how is your pass motion?’ I was asked by the taxi driver when he drove me to the hospital.

If this conversation happens in the States, you may reasonably guess I’m a member of the House, during the call for health care bill or something1. LOL.

I was diagnosed with Dengue, one of common infectious tropical disease spread by damned mosquitoes. Unfortunately there is no known medicine or treatment to cure it. So when I suspected a potential intestine bleeding, to be safe, I rushed to the hospital for a quick check. In this case, I found ‘pass motion’ was so widely used in Singapore referring to ‘get rid of solid waste out of the body’, yes, a.k.a. ‘defaecate’ formally, or ‘move bowels’ casually, or ‘take a shit’ vulgarly, or ‘poo’ childishly.

Some online discussions2 suggest this term is kind of medical euphemism used in Britain fifty years ago, and the right usage should be ‘pass a motion’. Yes, I can still find the term ‘pass a motion’ used on a few pages of UK National Health Service websites3.

I believe ‘pass motion’ is actually ‘pass-motion’ as noun in certain scenarios. As we see, it’s used more often in Commonwealth countries4, especially India, Malaysia, Singapore etc. You know, apparently British colonialism legacy with misuse.

Well, it’s certainly British English, so I guess most Americans can get it but with weird feelings. This reminds me of another widely used phrase: ‘mind the gap’5, in train stations of Britain and Commonwealth countries. American English speakers won’t ‘mind’ such but still, weird, sort of. Yup, they’re two languages sometimes, indeed…


  1. Motion to pass on – Wikipedia
  2. Is ‘pass motion’ used by native speakers? – WordReference Forums
  3. Wigan and Leigh’s Endoscopy Unit
  4. Commonwealth of Nations
  5. Mind the gap – Wikipedia

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