Posted by: Jack Henry | June 24, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Skip to my lou, my darling!

Hello to all of our new readers. I thank you for joining us in the Editor’s Corner.

Now a disclaimer for today:

For those of you who don’t like reading or talking about potentially sensitive subjects, I will warn you now that this is a discussion about bathrooms. That said, let’s get to it!

The other day we were out at the San Diego Museum of Man, visiting the new Cannibals exhibit. At one point, our friend said he had to “hit the head.” We all knew what that meant and found the restroom. But that got me thinking about the term head for bathroom, and from there I couldn’t stop. Here is some information from the Online Etymology Dictionary:


Old English heafod "top of the body," also "upper end of a slope," also "chief person, leader, ruler; capital city," from Proto-Germanic *haubudam (source also of Old Saxon hobid, Old Norse hofuð, Old Frisian haved, Middle Dutch hovet, Dutch hoofd, Old High German houbit, German Haupt, Gothic haubiþ "head"), from PIE *kaput- "head" (source also of Sanskrit kaput-, Latin caput "head").

Modern spelling is early 15c., representing what was then a long vowel (as in heat) and remained after pronunciation shifted. Of rounded tops of plants from late 14c. Meaning "origin of a river" is mid-14c. Meaning "obverse of a coin" (the side with the portrait) is from 1680s; meaning "foam on a mug of beer" is first attested 1540s; meaning "toilet" is from 1748, based on location of crew toilet in the bow (or head) of a ship. [KC – Emphasis mine.]


"lavatory," 1940, but perhaps 1922, probably from French lieux d’aisances, "lavatory," literally "place of ease," picked up by British servicemen in France during World War I. Or possibly a pun on Waterloo, based on water closet.


"toilet," 1932, probably from jakes, used for "toilet" since 15c


"a privy," mid-15c., genitive singular of jack (n.), perhaps a humorous euphemism.

And the “lou” in the song “Skip to my lou, my darling” is completely unrelated. It is from “a Scottish word for ‘love’,” at least that’s what Wikipedia says!

Enjoy your weekend,


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