Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 04:47:53 -0500


Subject: Re: Lavatory = ?

Ignore this if it has come up before, but one of my colleagues, from N.

Alabama, notes that the bathroom fixture he washed his hands in was a

lavatory , but his wife (from NYC), for whom this is a wash basin ,

has (hissy?) fits when he calls it a lavatory. I think I originally learned

lavatory as fancy euphemism for "bathroom", but my recollections are too

dim to be sure, though I do recall some confusion over what the term exactly

denoted. Does DARE find a regional difference here, or a chronological one?

at a seminar the other week, a bunch of us ex-catholic school girls

(we can spot each other miles away) were comparing how we were

required to phrase our requests to go to the bathroom. for my school

in western new york state, we had to say "may i please go to the

lavatory". of course, none of the kids who were required to ask this

knew what a "lavatory" was, so we tended to ask to go to the

"laboratory" (said with all the vowels--like boris karloff--for extra

effect). for me, "lavatory" never meant the sink (or wash basin, if

you prefer), but the whole thing. (i think for a while i thought

that ones with stalls were "lavatories" and ones without were


we found that the older people were, the less likely the nuns were to

allow them to even mention the room. so, some people had to ask "may

i leave the room?" and it was understood that the only legitimate

reason to make that request was to go to the bathroom.