The loo &c.

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Fri Apr 9 20:24:12 UTC 2010

On Apr 6, 2010, at 10:32 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: The loo &c.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 4/6/2010 09:57 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> 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").
> Now if you'd asked for la Zazie dans le Metro ...
>> 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"),
> Hasn't the latter become the standard term of
> delicacy in places of public accommodation?
>> 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.
> Hah!  Perhaps asked in the 18th century, when one
> was trying to determine one's host's place in the class pecking order?
> But instead of "do you have ..." one might ask
> "may I use your bathroom?"  However, probably not
> "may I use your toilet?"  Too vivid.
>>> (I believe such places are referred to in USAmerica as rest stops
>>> or places
>>> of little ease.
>> Hmmm.
> I wouldn't just "go" any place in a "rest
> stop".  They too have men's and women's rooms for
> the requisite functions.  And I can't recall ever
> hearing "place of little ease".
> Joel
I hafta laugh when, in this discussion of all the dodges by which
people refer to the sort of plumbing facilities which enable the
disposal of human waste, of all the terms: bathroom, washroom,
restroom, WC, ladies', gents', john, &c., "toilet" is singled out as
the most direct, when, in fact it is one of the outstanding examples
of euphemism.  "Water closet" is what we really mean when we say
"toilet."  As with so many euphemisms, it has for all practical
purposes lost the inoffensive original meaning, to the extent that no
one now thinks of it as a euphemism at all.  It is permanently tainted
with excrement.

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