The toilet is the most utilised room in the house. Some of us are fortunate to have more than one, which is fantastic when there is a large number of people cuing outside the door, yelling at you, telling you to hurry up because they’re busting to go. If your kids are anything like mine, they just open the door and start pulling you off if you don’t move fast enough. (Teenagers… Do they not understand the meaning of the word privacy?)
In my recent research into the most important room in a house, I have discovered that there are many names by which we call the toilet. Some are obscure and weird, while others are interesting. This week, I have decided to share with you a few more common names and where those names originate.
A bathroom was originally a room with a bath in it. However, it’s not uncommon for bathrooms to also contain a toilet, hence, why in today’s society the term bathroom is commonly used for a toilet.
This British slang term was originally used to describe an open cesspit, where the land was wet and muddy, too soft to support a heavy body. Today, it’s common to hear someone refer to a bogroll, meaning ‘toilet paper’. The word is derived from the Scottish Gaelic word bogach.
This one, like many others, just makes my mind boggle. Yes, a toilet can be convenient, but why would one call a toilet a convenience? Well, it comes from the days when public flushing toilets was still a reasonably new concept. However, I feel fairly confident in saying that if you asked someone where the convenience was, they would look at you like you were speaking gibberish.
This is a maritime term, but it does make one wonder who is in charge on a boat.
In 1596, Sir John Harington published a paper on his flushing toilet system that he called Ajax. The Ajax was the forerunner to our modern flushing toilet systems. However, with a name of Ajax, it’s not a hard leap to the name Jacks. In some places, they spell it Jax. Ironically, Ajax is a toilet cleaner in my home country.
This British and American slang term is derived from Sir John Harington, who, like Thomas Crapper, was given credit of being among the first designers of the flushing toilet.
Also spelt karzy, kharsie or carzy, khazi is a British slang term, believed to be derived from the Italian word casa, meaning ‘house’. Some believe that it is derived from the 19th Century Cockney word carsey, referring to a brothel.
- Long Drop
The long drop is a special kind of toilet, one that is typically situated over a big hole in the ground with a long drop to the bottom. You will find them throughout New Zealand, mainly on tramping trails. They come in a variety of different styles: some with concrete floors and others with wooden floors that hopefully are not rotten. They all have one feature in common: they smell really bad.
This is a more civilised name for the long drop, but can be fixed with a flushing toilet system. The outhouse is separate from the main dwelling, such that one has to go out to the toilet.
- Plumbing Fixture
Well, yes, a toilet is a plumbing fixture, but why must we use such a boring term? This one came about for legal reasons. Insurance companies could not refer to the toilet simply as a toilet, because that could easily refer to a hole in the ground in the backyard with a bucket in it. No, house insurance must refer to permanent plumbing fixtures, or at least my house insurance does. However, should we use this term in everyday scenarios? I dare all my readers to use this in public one day, asking some poor unsuspecting citizen, “Where are the plumbing fixtures?” Leave a comment below with the reaction.
In today’s society, a child’s toilet pot is called a potty. However, the term originates from the days when chamber pots were in common use.
- Powder room
This term originates from the days when the toilet was actually a room where one went to freshen up — powder your nose, as one would say. How many of us really powder our noses when going to the toilet?
You can find these everywhere with the borders of the USA. They are found in restaurants, shopping malls, even on the sides of the road. Basically, the Americans call a public toilet a restroom.
Must I really explain the origins of this one? It’s a house where you take a shit.
That’s only a small handful of ways one could refer to the toilet. I continue to add to my list, hunting out the reasons why we use those terms. Is it sad for me to admit that I’m finding this research so much fun?
Other posts in this series:
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2015