The room where everyone goes
It is sometimes referred to as “the smallest room of the house,” though that description may no longer apply. One can see in the glossy magazines photographs of bathrooms done up on a scale and to a degree that Caracalla might have found a bit showy.
Despite a universal familiarity with the place, we somehow lack a fully satisfactory term for daily use.
We call it the bathroom, though we are not necessarily headed there to bathe. Moreover, many of those rooms lack tubs and showers. Restroom can’t be right. No one rests there, except perhaps the women for whom couches are provided as they endure Aunt Flo’s monthly visits. Besides, whenever I hear restroom, I have an unavoidable association with one of Bill Dana’s irritating Jose Jimenez routines in which he confuses restroom with rostrum. We are blessedly out of the 1950s, so perhaps powder room will fade away as well.
Toilet originally identified a cloth used as a wrapper for clothes (toilette), then the cloth covering a dressing table, then the articles used in dressing, then the actions of washing and dressing, and now the bowl for depositing waste or the room in which the plumbing fixture is located. The word’s elegance has vanished.
The john, for reasons I shan’t belabor, is beneath consideration. I usually mention going to the gents’, and the ladies’ is equally serviceable, but we have progressed into an age of unisex facilities. I like loo — monosyllable, neutral, free from unfortunate associations — but it’s British, as are water closet and W.C. Lavatory sounds prissy. Latrine is military. Head is nautical. Potty is childish.
Coy euphemisms — little boys’ room, little girls’ room, throne — will not do for adults. (I recall from childhood that on my mother’s side of the family the chamber pot or slop jar was sometimes jocularly referred to as the thunder mug.)
I suppose that falling back on loo would be the least objectionable choice. I wish that this post could offer you a more satisfactory resolution of the matter, but I have to go see a man about a dog.