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Hello guys

I'm interested in a thing some of you wouldn't like to talk about. If you get unpleased reading this post, I'm sorry for it.

The thing is how you would ask to someone when you have an urge to urinate in a place you visit for the first time. A phrase I first came across with is "Excuse me, where is the toilet?" as a direct translation of my mother tongue Japanese and taught in English class when I was a student. But I remember once I was told in an English learners' forum that, in USA, "toilet" refers to the fixture rather than a room and Americans feel it is vulgar to say like "go to the toilet". Other possible word for this purpose may be lavatory, bathroom (bath room), restroom (rest room), and washroom (wash room).

So I googled about those words putting X to a phrase "to the X and" ("and" is inserted to exclude adjective uses of the word X). The domain EDU was selected as the representative of AmE speakers' sites. The results are as follows;

[1] Countries where "bathroom" is the word most frequently used.

USA (sample number 7071)
1. bathroom 82.4 % 2. restroom 12.6 % 3. toilet 3.3 % 4. washroom 1.1 % 5. lavatory 0.6 %
Canada (sample number 5313)
1. bathroom 67.4 % 2. washroom 20.2 % 3. toilet 8.0 % 4. restroom 4.3 % 5. lavatory 0.1 %
India (sample number 220)
1. bathroom 96.4 % 2. toilet 3.2 % 3. lavatory 0.5 % 4. washroom 0.0 % 5. restroom 0.0 %
Japan (sample number 270)
1. bathroom 58.9 % 2. toilet 21.1 % 3. lavatory 10.7 % 4. washroom 7.0 % 5. restroom 2.2 %

[2] Countries where "toilet" is the word most frequently used.

Australia (sample number 4386)
1. toilet 82.5 % 2. bathroom 14.8 % 3. restroom 1.4 % 4. washroom 0.7 % 5. lavatory 0.7 %
Britain (sample number 16449)
1. toilet 54.4 % 2. bathroom 42.4 % 3. lavatory 1.2 % 4. restroom 0.7 % 5. washroom 0.6 %
New Zealand (sample number 671)
1. toilet 52.9 % 2. bathroom 44.6 % 3. restroom 1.4 % 4. washroom 0.7 % 5. lavatory 0.7 %
Hong Kong (sample number 69)
1. toilet 65.2 % 2. bathroom 26.1 % 3. washroom 5.8 % 4. restroom 2.9 % 5. lavatory 0.0 %

Though "bathroom" and "toilet" are most frequently used two words, there are some differences in the preference between countries. A striking fact is that "toilet" is preferred in Australia much more than in Britain. Another impressive fact is Canadians use "washroom" next to "bathroom" despite the fact it is the last choice by British people and the fourth choice by Amricans. I am wondering why so.

paco
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Comments  
Interesting figures, Paco. However, I don't know the answer to your question. As you know, some communities consider it a taboo, and that's why the most used word changes to a new one, with a weaker meaning. And the communities do not do this the same as each other. So we have different selections. Interestingly, in Persian we use the word "handwash room"!
Nice googling, Paco. Like Language Lover, I can offer no reason why it is so, beyond individual cultural happenstance.

If it helps any, I often use 'restroom' when asking for a public facility, while I am more likely to use 'bathroom' or 'washroom' when visiting someone's private residence.
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Hello LanguageLover

You are right. These words all belong to euphemism. For example, "lavatory" comes from a Latin word "lavatorium", which means "washing place". But it is likely most people now feel "lavatory" is too vulgar to speak out in public. Because people feel it is a taboo they always seek a new word and older ones soon get obsolete. It may be one of the reasons why the use of this kind of word has got different from a place to a place during a short time.

paco
Hello MrMicawber

Thank you for the comment. Personally I'm hesitant to use "bathroom". It is because, as you know well, we Japanese don't put a toilet in the bathroom. We put only a bathtub there.

paco
I certainly do! And I have switched to using 'toilet' here.
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I'm not sure there is a word that everyone will accept. As you say, some people think 'toilet' vulgar. Others find 'lavatory' a little too lavender-scented. 'Bathrooms' mostly aren't; 'washroom' seems to substitute the effect for the cause.

— 'Jakes'? 'Latrines'?

Too whimsically euphemistic...

— 'Bogs'?

Slightly schoolboyish.

— 'Where may I adjust my clothing?'

One short step from a 6-month suspended sentence.

No, I'm afraid it can't be done. The only solution is to practise bladder control.

MrP
Hi Paco! Wow! You have done quite an extensive research on this topic!

What about 'the loo' or 'the cloakroom'? These are also very widely used words to signify a toilet. Please pardon me if these words are of the 'unspoken kind'.

I like MrP's solution of bladder control! Emotion: smile
I'd forgotten 'loo'!

No, not at all unspoken: much used, as you say – at least, in BrE.

It seems to be one of those words that are fine for women to use, but slightly odd if the speaker is a man.

MrP
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