Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996 04:47:53 -0500
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
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.