Monday, April 23, 2007
The other day at lunch we had a discussion of the different names used for a washroom. Names like bathroom, restroom, the loo, the john, lavatory, latrine,water closet etc. We debated a bit on why there were so many names and since inquiring minds want to know, I found the following explanation on wikipedia(who knew that wikipedia would have such information!).
Usually the term "washroom" is used to denote a public, commercial, or industrial personal hygiene facility designed for high throughput, whereas a similar term "bathroom" is used to denote a smaller, often residential facility for lesser throughput (i.e., often for only one person at a time to use). The word originated in the United States and is currently the preferred term in Canada; in American English, "bathroom" or "restroom" are now more common. In Britain, Australia, Hong Kong (as toilets) and New Zealand, the terms in use are "public toilets" and (more informally) "public loos". In the rest of the world (usually Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia) the term "Comfort room" is used. Furthermore many European washroom doors are simply marked "WC", for water closet, which may be confusing for non-Europeans. One reason some Americans prefer "restroom" over "bathroom" is that restrooms do not have bathtubs. By contrast, speakers of British English commonly have trouble with the word restroom, on the basis that only the hygienically confused would actually take a rest in such a place. Therefore, the term "washroom" is the most preferable, because, although the room may not always have a bath (full-body wash), only the hygienically confused could imagine a personal hygiene room that did not contain at least one handwash station.
I tend to agree with the speakers of British English.