The Toilet is Historic…

It’s amazing how time just seems to creep by. Before we realise it, months have whizzed by. I feel like that at the moment. So much is going on, and I’ve only just realised that I still haven’t finished my wonderful list of names for toilets. To my readers, I must apologise for this.

Sunrise Comfort Station

Sunrise Comfort Station. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA (Source: Wikipedia)

In doing my research for this particular post, I was thrown by some of the names for toilets. What I thought was just some joking name, making me laugh, turned out to be a real name with historic traditions associated. On this particular list, it was Comfort Station that surprised me the most.

So… Without further ado…

  • Ablutions
    The term ablution refers to the act of washing oneself. So an ablution block normally refers to the showing facilities in a camping ground or other such facility. However, these facilities tend to also have a row of toilets.
  • Bowl
    Yes, one refers to the actually toilet as a cistern and the bowl, but how many actually say, “Excuse me, I need to go use the bowl.” Let’s be honest. If someone asked me where they could find the bowl, I would direct them to the kitchen. Not exactly the place where one should relieve themselves.
  • Can
    This slang term seems to be used on both sides of the Atlantic, and doesn’t just refer to a toilet. Apparently, it can also refer to the buttocks and breasts. It all depends on the context.
  • Chamber Pot
    I don’t know if you can classify this as a name for a toilet, because a chamber pot is just the pot where one defecates, only for the human waste to be dealt with later. They were common prior to the introduction of the flushing toilet and indoor plumbing, and are still used today in hospitals and other such facilities.
  • Cloakroom
    How many of us when we hear the term cloakroom we think of a room where you store you jacket, or check-in your overcoats at a fancy restaurant? At least this is the image that springs to my mind. Hence, it was quite a surprise to do a Google search and discover that cloakroom is an incredibly common term for toilet rooms. Among the top 10 sites, 8 of them were for plumbing supply stores, all selling cloakroom toilets and basins. Granted most were UK based, but I did discover that the top one was a New Zealand store. Exactly where this term came from is probably buried in the recesses of history, never to be known again.
  • Comfort Station
    Yes, it can be a comfort when one finally gets a chance to relieve themselves. However, this one is a term used in places throughout the US. In the Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, US, there is a historic building with is called the Plaza Comfort Station (or Comfort Station No. 68), and yes, it is a public toilet. In the same park, you can find Comfort Station #4 (also known as Comfort Station No.72). And in Milton, Massachusetts, is another historic Comfort Station. (Who would have thought that a public toilet would become a historic monument?)
  • Commode
    A commode is actually a piece of furniture where a chamber pot is stored. The original commodes, as used by the French in the 1700s, were inlaid with gold and other gems in intricate patterns, with a flat surface for placing a pitcher and washbasin. Today, the term commode refers to a chair, often with wheels, with a chamber pot embedded in the seat. You will see these in hospitals or other such facilities. (Personally, if I had a cabinet from the 1700s, I would not be calling it a commode.)
  • Dressing Room
    This is another one that has an entirely different imagery in my mind. I’m used to the theatre, where one has a dressing room with the walls lined with mirrors and bright lights, to put on makeup and don costumes for stage. If you’re a big shot star, then you might get a dressing room with a private toilet, but to call a toilet the dressing room? I wonder if this comes from the changing room concept at public swimming pools and sports centres, where a row of toilets is normally found after walking through the area set aside for changing.
  • Dry Vault
    The dry vault is just another name for a long drop, but refers to a specific design where the pit for collection is aerated to aid in the odour control during decomposition. They are normally above ground.
  • Dunnekin
    This is the close cousin of the Dunny, and refers to an open cesspit. Exactly where this term comes from seems to be up for debate. However, my recent search did turn up a very unfortunate play on letters. An unsuspecting person on Twitter has named her account DUNNEkin Donuts. If she knew that a dunnekin was a toilet, she might rethink this name.
  • Little Boys’ Room / Little Girls’ Room
    This is a child’s form of Gents’ or Ladies’. All because we want to be civil.
  • London
    You’ve got me with this one.
  • The Gents / The Ladies
    These terms come from the signage that is commonly used for public toilets, becoming colloquial names for the public facilities. However, most of the public toilets in my local area are labelled with picture images.
  • Vin
    To me, a VIN has nothing to do with toilets. I know this as a Vehicle Identification Number. However, the term vin is used by some among the British Aristocracy to refer to the little room. Exactly why this might be, I’m still trying to find out.

There are so many more names and some of them are just mind-boggling. And the list included in my posts is far from exhaustive. If my readers know of any that I missed, please let me know, and I’ll add it to the list.

Other posts in this series:


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2015

Posted in Humor, Toilet humor and tagged , .

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