Bathroom words

The One Big Happy from May 5th:

What to call this room, with the facilities for urination and defecation? Most of the standard terms are named metonymically, by association with other activities often engaged in in such a room: bathroom, by association with bathing; toilet, by association (in French) with dressing; lavatory, by association with washing (Latin lavatorium ‘place for washing’); washroom; restroom.

Ruthie and her mother object to bathroom for public facilities because of the lack of a bathtub in them. Ruthie’s mother suggests lavatory (she is, of course, ignorant of the etymology, and thinks of the word as an unanalyzable whole). But Ruthie searches for meaning any place she can find it, and fixes on the lava of lavatory. The connection is imperfect in pronunciation — in AmE, lava has accented /a/, lavatory accented /æ/ — though it’s perfect in spelling (but does Ruthie know how to spell lavatory? well, she’s a 6-year-old kid in a cartoon, who knows what she knows?).

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