The etymology of the word bidet dates back to at least the 1530s
and was argot for a donkey or pony.
The word may have come to signify the sanitary device on account of the action
of straddling the bowl as one might ride a pony. However, the first written
mention of the bidet in its modern usage is in 1710 when the Marquis d’Argenson
records that he had the pleasure of being granted an audience with Mademoiselle
de Prie, whilst she sat astride her bidet. At this stage the bidet was only
popular amongst the upper classes in France and despised by everyone else. In
1751, the bidet was still seen as a sign of profligacy and excess, referred to
as the indulgence of Madame de Pompadour. The bidet still retains a following sometimes bordering on the surreal as well as providing ample opportunities for hilarity.