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JET & Toilet (No relation)

Darren has set foot on the Land of the Rising Sun as an AET (Assistant English Teacher). As someone whose job is to teach English, I'd like to welcome wholeheartedly a person like him to this country, who shows genuine interest and understanding of the Japanese language and culture, and eagerness to teach his wonderful language to the local students. I wish him luck. From now forward, you can expect him to write a lot about his encounters with things Japanese in his blog. So he has already. Check it out!

So, excuse me for another toilet talk. Let me say what confused me a lot when I first heard of it long, long ago was the idea of "bathroom" in the US. It was this simple -- Why are the bathtub and the toilet in the same room? Though now I take them for granted in places like hotels in Japan, my initial reaction was that of "Unbelievable!" Also it amused me to know that "going to the bathroom" means "going to use the toilet." By the way, is this use of "bathroom" particular to American English only? I suppose every culture has its own various ways of referring to "a room that contains a toilet." In Japanese, "toire", the Japanese way of pronouncing "toilet", seems to be most popular now. How do you usually say?


Thanks Kiyo for welcoming me, and plugging my site! Yes, please visit folks :) Maybe I should change the background colour or modify the title? Actually, I need a pc first!!

For toilets... I say 'going to the toilet' or 'to the loo' - my new American friends think the latter is very interesting. They all say 'bathroom'... They are trying to convert me all the time! Help!

More formally/polite- go to the restroom or need to use the restroom. But generally, yeah, we just say I'm going to the bathroom. In Mandarin Chinese, "tse suo" means bathroom and they say "shang tse suo" which means literally "on bathroom". Like Americans, they don't actually say "toilet". In Taiwanese, "ben so" means bathroom and if someone needs to go, they would say I need to go to the ben so. The word for toilet in Taiwanese is very rarely used...

I say "restroom" out of politeness. The idea is that we're trying to distract you from the mental image of us anywhere near a toilet.

When I went to the Philippines, I noticed that they called it the "comfort room."

Thanks guys. Darren, English textbooks are generally based on American English here. What to do with them would be an important matter for you. CC, "ben so" sounds much like "ben jo" in Japanese, which means a restroom but is a direct expression of referring to the place. Jennifer, "toire" is, in a sense, an indirect expression because it's not from a Japanese word. ;)

well, on the cultural differences point, I must say I find it strange to have the toilet in a completely separate room from the bathroom. makes it a pain in the *** to have to walk (in my case) through the living room to wash my hands in the bathroom sink after doing my business. (our bathroom is equipped with one of those fountain type things that spouts out water after flushing, but there's no soap in there so I don't use that for washing my hands (others in the family do)).

re: language, in America I think it varies by region, but "john" is common when referring to the toilet, at least among males. in public, as Jennifer mentioned, for example when asking a store clerk where it is, we'd say "restroom" and hardly ever "toilet". Some folks say "lavatory" (I never got used to this one because of the mental image of a "laboratory"). We also say "men's room" and "ladies' room" quite often. Women (usually older and more refined) will sometimes say "powder room", only somewhat euphemistically (after all, they usually "refresh" their makeup while in there).

I think the language for the actual act is interesting, such expressions like "take a leak" and "relieve myself" or somewhat bizarre references like "number 2". (I also wonder how the verb "take" got associated with bathroom functions, eg. "take a leak", "take a dump", "take a crap" etc.).

Darren, a question for you re: "to the loo". In America, sometimes when saying goodbye we say "toodaloo" (not sure of spelling). After spending some time in England, I started to wonder if this somehow was a bastardization of "to the loo".

And one more toilet story: when once guiding around a bunch of American tourists in London, one of them quite seriously asked "why are all of the toilet signs missing the letter 'i'?" (she was of course referring to all the "to let" signs, advertising rooms or offices for rent)

It's interesting that your brought up the issue of the American bath in the same room as the toilet, often right next to the toilet. I had just posted a comment on Kurt's site saying how disgusting I find this. (And I'm American!) This seems to be a standard design in modern American housing. In my mother-in-law's house outside of Manchester UK, though, the bathtub and the toilet are in separate rooms.

As for the term "going to the bathroom", it's just a polite form--a euphemism. Since the same room houses both toilet and bath, it just sounds more discreet and polite--like the saying "otearai" instead of "benjo".

I also find the Japanese word "benjo" interesting, as the British sometimes refer to the toilet as "the convenience". Actually "benjo" was one of the first Japanese words I learned as a child when I lived in Okinawa, as we were cautioned not to fall into the "benjo ditch" that is, the open sewer.

The original meaning of toilet was not "a fixture for defecation and urination", but comes from the Middle French for "the act of dressing or grooming oneself". (Which is why toiletries, or toilet articles are soaps, perfumes, etc.) Perhaps the old chamber pot was kept in the same room where one dressed.

Later when I lived in Japan as an adult, I had to learn that WC meant "water closet", a British term for flush toilet. Which brings us to Thomas Crapper, who in the 1880s developed a flush toilet that used much less water than previous models. Many people think that the vulgar slang for defecate "to take a crap" comes from his name...but it actually comes from Middle English. All the vulgar slang (crap, shit, piss) are the original Englsih words, while the more polite, clinical words (urinate, defecate) come from Latin by way of French. But this should not be too surprising as the word "vulgar" simply means "common" in Latin; it is the language of the "common folk".

Wow, thanks for the great post, Ms. Stevens!

Kurt - i have never made the connection between too the loo and toodaloo... sorry! Who knows?

why is everyone here talking about bathrooms?

oh now i know why... in my house we think havin the toilet next to the bathtub is sort of nasty.. we have the toilet in a diff. room and the bathtub in a diff. room right next to each other. (i am american too!lol)

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. :-)

i say.. need to drain the sea monster