You’ve called it the John (thought to be taken from Sir John Harrington—godson of Queen Elizabeth I and distant relative of Game of Thrones star Kit Harington—who attempted to create modern flush toilets) and the Crapper (after Thomas Crapper, another toilet innovator). And maybe, in one of your cruder moments, you’ve even referred to it as the sh**ter (no explanation needed for that one, although you may be surprised to know that the term at first referred to a person or creature that pooped before it came to mean a toilet in the 1960s). But if you’re looking for more creative bathroom euphemisms, try using one of these slang terms for toilets and toilet paper the next time you head to the loo.
1. Necessary House
Going to the bathroom is a necessary function, so calling a privy or outhouse a necessary house makes sense. The term dates back to the early 1600s; before it was a necessary house, people would sometimes call it a necessary place, necessary vault, or necessary stool.
People in the Navy likely refer to their ship’s bathroom as the head—a term that comes from the bathroom’s placement in the head, or bow, of a ship, where water splashing up from the ocean would clean the area. Head has been used in this way since the early 1700s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
3. and 4. Shankie and Cludgie
Shankie (sometimes shunkie) and cludgie (or cludge) are delightful Scots slang terms for toilets dating to around the 1970s. “Ah whip oaf ma keks and sit oan the cold wet porcelain shunky,” Irvine Welsh wrote in Trainspotting.
Once used to refer to a room used to store things like armor, by the 1680s, a garderobe was another name for a privy or toilet—or, as one writer put it at the time, a place for “the private deeds of Nature.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, established as the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression, created a number of new jobs through things like building big infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam, New York’s LaGuardia Airport, San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, and more.
Less well known, but equally important, are the 2.3 million outhouses built in rural communities around the country as part of the New Deal. (Sanitation and public health are linked; adding these outhouses to underserved areas would help improve both.) The wooden outdoor structures—which had a concrete foundation and a chimney for ventilation—came to be known as FDRs, Roosevelt Buildings, or Federal Buildings.
7. and 8. Dunnekin and Dunny
A dunnekin (or dunegan, according to Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue) is slang from the late 18th century for an outhouse and was used in England, Australia, and New Zealand. Its origins are unknown, but the OED speculates that it might be derived from the word dung; according to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, it’s “thought to be a compound of ‘danna’ (excrement) and ‘ken’ (house).” In Australia, the term is shortened to dunny.
9. and 10. Bum Fodder and Curl Paper
Why call it toilet paper when you could go with bum fodder or curl paper instead? Grouse defined the former term (one used to refer to badly-written literature) as “soft paper for the necessary house.”
12., 13., 14., and 15. Looking-Glass, Jockem Gage, Remedy Critch, and Member Mug
All slang terms for a chamber pot, as seen in Grouse’s Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue.
16. Little Office
If you’re an Australian in need of a bathroom break, you might head to your little office. (Just don’t take a Zoom meeting in there.)
U.S. college students in the 1970s, meanwhile, excused themselves to go to the toilet by saying they needed to use the telephone.
18. and 19. Thelma Ritter and Skyscraper
Practically any concept can be made more delightful through rhyming slang, and going to the bathroom is no exception. Head to the Thelma Ritter (rhyming slang for “sh**ter,” perhaps taken from the name of an American actress) and, when you’re done, use skyscraper (a.k.a. toilet paper) to wipe your fife and drum (that would be your bum).
20. Film For Your Brownie
Just another way to refer to toilet paper, this time a pun on Kodak’s Brownie camera, dating to the early 1970s. (You’ll know you’ve used enough film for your brownie when you draw an ace—otherwise known, according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, as “produc[ing] a clean sheet of toilet paper, having wiped one’s anus thoroughly.”)
21. Crapping Case
A crapping case is a water closet; it can also be known as a crapping castle, according to The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal, published in 1874.
Initially a term borrowed into English from the Italian casa, meaning “house,” this British term came to mean “toilet” in the 1930s and started out as casey or carsey before becoming khazi in the 1970s. As the OED notes, the change “may result from association with the title of the character the Khasi of Khalabar in the 1968 film Carry On Up the Khyber, in which Khasi puns fancifully (and offensively) on this word.”
Gutbucket is a slang term with a few meanings—and since the 1940s, “toilet” has been one of them.
24. Bog House
Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present notes that bog house or bog shop are slang terms for “a privy; a necessary house.” According to the OED, the terms may have been formed simply by joining bog—“a piece of wet spongy ground”—with the words house and shop. It’s also possible that bog house is a form of boggard, a 16th-century word for a privy.
In the U.S., biffy is a slang term for the toilet dating to the 1940s. (In the UK, however, the word had a different meaning: In the 1960s, it was used to describe someone who was drunk.)
According to The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, this name for an outdoor toilet is an acronym from the ‘70s for Keep Your Bowels in Order.