Date: Thu, 16 Feb 1995 08:27:12 -0700
From: Bruce Gelder bgelder[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CAMEL.SIM.ES.COM
Subject: Re: jakes
Is anyone familiar with the use of the term "jakes" (or "jake" or "jake
house") to mean a privy or a toilet? The OED has it from c1530 on, but
almost all of DARE's contemporary evidence for it comes from Roman Catholic
clergymen! Is it more widespread than that? If you know it, please tell me
where and when you heard it. Thanks.
I have never heard the word (I live in Salt Lake City), but I checked
three dictionaries to see whether it appeared in any of them. It is
listed in all three (Merriam Webster's Collegiate, Tenth Edition; AHD,
Third Edition; and the latest edition of Webster's New World). I'm
sure that the Random House members of this group can tell us whether
it is also listed in their dictionary and (possibly?) even share with us
some of the information from their citation files.
Merriam Webster's Collegiate gives 1538 as the date of origin, defines
it simply as "privy," and says that the word perhaps comes from the French
The AHD says that the word is chiefly British, defines it as "a latrine;
a privy," and also states that it perhaps originated from "Jacques."
Webster's New World says that the word comes from "Jacques" (no "perhaps"
given), with the additional comment that it is "now chiefly dial[ectal]."
It defines the word as "an outdoor toilet; privy."