The essential facility and its many names

Pan handling: Museum volunteer Robin with a selection of bed pans, which are on display at Coalfields Museum. Photo: Nola Green.

Pan handling: Museum volunteer Robin with a selection of bed pans, which are on display at Coalfields Museum. Photo: Nola Green.

Toilets are essential facilities which go under a number of different names and euphemisms.

The lavatory

From the original Latin meaning "to wash", shortened by some to "the lavvy" or "the lav".

The toilet

From the French toilette meaning dressing room, considered middle class or vulgar by the upper classes in England.

The loo

Used by some to appear posh, possibly evolved from either Waterloo or the French l'eau meaning water.

The bathroom

Used to disguise the fact that you were going to the lavatory.

The W.C.

Short for water closet.

The dunny

Australian slang, thought to be from the British dunnekin meaning outhouse, referred to an outside lavatory.

The thunderbox

Australian slang, used most often for lavatories before septic tanks and deep sewerage. It consisted of a wooden top with a round hole, and a "pan" underneath this hole. The back of the box could be opened from the back lane, so the pan could be emptied by the "sanitary man" on a weekly basis. This meant the lavatory was located at the end of the backyard, a long walk, wet in winter, and spooky after dark.

The Po

An abbreviation of pot, or chamber pot, used indoors by the family at night, or when someone was too ill to go outside to the lavatory. These were used extensively before the introduction of lavatories, and in medieval Europe were emptied straight into the street.

The gesunder mug

Another name for the Po, because it "gesunder the bed".

The crapper

From Sir Thomas Crapper who invented the ball and cock method of flushing the toilet.

The long drop

A seat on top of a deep hole, used in remote areas of Australia where there is no sewer system. The waste slowly breaks down because of the action of germs and any wastewater soaks into the ground. Sheets of newspaper torn into square shapes and threaded with string were often hung on a nail to provide an answer to toilet cleanliness before septic systems, deep sewerage and the large-scale manufacture of toilet paper. This method also provided reading material for those visiting the lavatory for an extended period of time.

How do you hang your toilet roll?

Waterfall is considered by some to be the correct way, as laid out when toilet roll holders were first introduced.

Against the wall is considered by some to be preferable, as the paper roll does not float in the wind.

But those who have had to use lavatories with rough cement walls experienced grazed knuckles accessing the toilet roll.

Well we've been on a roll with the history of toilets, but now we seem to have reached the bottom!

Do you know any other terms for toilets?