OT:Heard on American Dad: daughter Hayley singing a song about...

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 6 13:57:39 UTC 2010

At 9:21 AM +0100 4/6/10, Robin Hamilton wrote:
>>She has my sympathy. I found out that there's a major problem involved
>>in asking - in English! - for the location of the bathroom, even among
>>Dutch people who have lived in the States long enough to have earned
>>American doctorates.
>Ha!  Now when *I* was at school -- high school, that is -- in the late
>fifties, I was told quite firmly that one only referred to the bathroom when
>wishing completely to cleanse the body in a tub.  The room where one went to
>perform other bodily functions, containing only a water closet and a wash
>hand basin, was a toilet [sic], though Nancy Mitford, in "U and non-U",
>might, while scouting the term 'loo', have begged to differ.

This was my experience when I first arrived in
Paris with my several years of high school and
college French under my belt and reduced some
uniformed guy in the Métro to tears by asking
politely "Où est la salle de bain?"  "Salle de
bain dans le Métro????!!!   Hunh hunh hunh!!!!"
It should, of course, have been either "la
toilette" or "le WC" ("Doobluh-vay-say").  I've
always assumed "bathroom" is OK within a house
*or* a public place (although in the latter, one
might go with "men's/women's/ladies' room"), and
then there's always "the john", at least in the
parts of the U.S. I've lived in.  But you have to
know how to ask indirectly:  "Do you have a
bathroom?" is OK in a restaurant but not so much
in a private house.

>(I believe such places are referred to in USAmerica as rest stops or places
>of little ease.



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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