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"Like.....I had one old woman snip at me about how I called the bathrooms, well, 'bathrooms'; clearly, I should have said 'washrooms' or 'powder-rooms', like she did asking for them."

Technically, there is no actual name for them. When they were invented people were so offended by the very IDEA that they were only entirely referred to by euphemisms. As in 'you don't store water in a water closet', you can't take a bath in a room with a toilet and sink, you don't rest in a restroom, etc.

Even the toilet is a euphemism, there's no real word for it. This is also, incidentally, why the 'bread and things you cram up a turkey's ass' is referred to as 'dressing' sometimes, because the victorians found 'stuffing' vulgar.

As to the southern thing... I couldn't care less. My family moved to the US sometime around WWI, and my parents were the first ones to move out of Michigan in any case, so it's got nothing to do with me in any direction.It isn't MY history, it's the history of where I happen to live at the moment,

The tourists tend to forget that all that 'southern gent/lady' nonsense came about because of the free time provided by having other people work for you for free.

Kai Lowell

I prefer "loo" myself, but I blame this on hanging about too many Brits and Aussies in my life.

People are idiots, that's really all there is to it. As Misty's so fond of saying, stupid is as stupid does!


Wow! What a great posting and responses!

First (as I step up on my pedantic soap box) "water closet" actually means "water valve", and has nothing to do with a "clothes closet" (A "closet" is something that closes.) So WC is nothing more than an English euphemism for the john or the crapper (both of which allegedly comes from "John Crap", apparently a manufacturer whose name was on the plumbing). (Stepping down again.)

Anyway the rant about the CSA battle flag was very good. Unfortunately many folks rally around that flag seem NOT to remember it was a lost cause. (Why do folks glorify war?) But I firmly agree we should NOT suppress our history, so long as we don't glorify the wrong aspects of it. The current brouhaha about statues and name (of CSA leaders in particular, but even C Columbus in NYC for another example) comes to mind. I fully understand the one side that wants to tear down statues of RE Lee in the center of town. Who wants to daily confront a monument to a traitor to the USA who defended the cause of slavery of one's people? My take is to move the statue onto private ground - not to destroy it. RE Lee won't go away. We should all learn from his mistakes. But glorifying him on public space is quite a reasonable thing to object to.

Now, as to imitating manners, words, customs. There's another way to look at this. When an American learns French (for example) he often refuses to shed his American accent -- thinking it's silly to pronounce words the way the French do. So his utterances are unintelligible to all. I take the reverse stance. Pronunciation is the MOST important; vocabulary only secondary. (There ARE dictionaries and guide books to read from.) So LEARN pronunciation by imitating a French accent do -- speak English like Pepe le Pew! This can actually teach you to pronounce words like the French do. (Then you need only learn how to READ French orthography, which is very systematic but quite different than English.)

The point of this rant is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If a Northerner tries to come across as Southern, accept that as flattery. But note that it doesn't give them any status whatsoever. Rather it's like a baby's first words. Correct them! Teach them! (Humiliating them publicly if they can't accept the correction!)


(tips over the soap box) Nuh-uh.

""John," along with an older term, "cousin John," is probably related to "the jakes," which goes back to 16th-century England and apparently is a shortened form of "Jake's house." "Jake" was a generic term for a yokel, but that's about all I can offer in the way of etymological wisdom. Basically, "john" is just another euphemism for an appliance that, as I have pointed out before, is one of the few things for which there is no simple descriptive term in the English language, i.e., one that resorts neither to euphemism nor vulgarity."

"Why do I get the feeling you people aren't paying attention? The legendary inventor of the flush toilet was Thomas Crapper, not John. See my earlier column on this subject."

Earlier column: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/573/why-do-we-call-it-the-bathroom-even-when-it-has-no-tub

Now for the startling developments. You may be aware that certain persons of indifferent breeding refer to the john as the "crapper." You may also be aware that in 1969 British writer Wallace Reyburn published a book entitled Flushed With Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper, which purported to tell the story of the inventor of the flush toilet. Reyburn followed this up in 1971 with another volume entitled "Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra." The latter effort was obviously a spoof, and it has been widely assumed that the story of Thomas Crapper was a joke as well.

In recent years, however, Ken Grabowski, ace researcher at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, has gone to great lengths to prove that Crapper actually existed. Grabowski has made several trips to England and collected hundreds of documents, including baptismal and death records, photos, magazine writeups about Crapper's plumbing company, advertisements, and so on. Having inspected the evidence, Cecil must say Grabowski makes a compelling case. Thomas Crapper (1837-1910), an English sanitary engineer, apparently founded a plumbing fixture company in London in 1861, and his products became well known throughout the British Isles. While Crapper did not actually invent the flush toilet, he did come up with certain improvements. Moreover, his equipment, with his name prominently displayed, was installed at military barracks used by U.S. troops during World War I. Does this mean that Mr. Crapper's name is the origin of the word "crap"? Not exactly. There was crap before there was Crapper (you should pardon the language), but big-C Crapper quite possibly gave rise to little-C crapper, meaning "toilet." That's the Straight Dope, friends. Accept no substitutes.


From Middle English closet, from Old French closet, from clos (“private area”) +‎ -et (“forming diminutives”), from Latin clausum. Equivalent to close +‎ -et, but generally applied in French solely to small open-air enclosures.[1]


Have you never seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights? Everyone knows that the term "John" came about when King Richard returned from the crusades and found out what Prince John was up to in his absence. By his royal decree, all toilets were henceforth referred to as Johns XD

Kai Lowell

o/` We're men, we're men in tights (TIGHT tights!) o/`

I do so love the Straight Dope, too.

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