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Today's Non Sequitur:

Under its original owner, the White Dog Cafe in West Philadelphia used to have three single-person restrooms, labelled "Pointers", "Setters", and "Republicans".

I always used the Republican alternative, because it was pretty much guaranteed to be available, clean, and well supplied with soap and toilet paper.



  1. Felix said,

    December 25, 2020 @ 6:25 pm

    Why do the bathrooms have an emo haircut?

  2. D.O. said,

    December 25, 2020 @ 9:53 pm

    "Pointers", "Setters", and "Republicans"

    There is some potential for election fraud right here.

  3. David Morris said,

    December 25, 2020 @ 10:11 pm

    'Santa' is (linguistically) feminine cf Santa Barbara and Santa Monica.

  4. Keith said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 4:03 am

    Under its original owner, the White Dog Cafe in West Philadelphia used to have three single-person restrooms, labelled "Pointers", "Setters", and "Republicans".

    That's quite funny. I immediately thought of "Pointers" being men (an old euphemism in the UK for going for a pee is to go and "point Percy at the porcelaiin") and "Setters" ("sitters") being women; the mechanism of the joke being to take "Pointer" as a set of breeds of gundog, "Setters" being another set of breeds.

    Following the theme of dog breeds, I remembered the term "Yellow Dog", which could mean a Golden Retriever… but it is usually used to decry "Yellow Dog Democrats".

    So does this mean that in the esteem of the bar owners "Yellow Dog Democrats" may as well be Republicans?

  5. Tom Dawkes said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 4:58 am

    @ David Morris. Santa Claus is NOT feminine. The name derives from Dutch Sinterklaas < Sint-Nicolaas “St Nicholas”. The OED gives a Dutch dialect form Sante [santə] Klaas, and for English -a is the normal way of representing final -ə.

  6. cliff arroyo said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 5:40 am

    "The OED gives a Dutch dialect form Sante [santə] Klaas"

    And the earliest reference in the US was to Santeclaus

  7. Rob said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 7:18 am

    It's always amusing, at least to Brits, to see a lavatory (sometimes "toilet") called a "restroom", or even more misleadingly, "bathroom"!

  8. James said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 7:29 am

    It's always amusing to me that it's amusing to Brits that Americans use a different euphemism. I suspect that Brits have somehow lost track of the fact that 'toilet' and 'lavatory' are also euphemisms! Or else the French ones strike you as *less* euphemistic?

  9. Philip Taylor said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 7:34 am

    Not forgetting, of course, <Am.E> "comfort station" …

  10. Gabriel said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 9:49 am

    Or Water Closet (W.C.,) although I haven't heard that one in ~20 years.

  11. Robert Coren said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 11:24 am

    I remember the first time (it may have been the only time) I saw "pointers" and "setters" used in this context, some 50 years ago, as labels for the restroom keys at a gas station in Maine. It took me a moment to figure out what they meant, and then I was quite amused.

    @Keith: I believe the term "Yellow Dog Democrat" is/was a term for someone so committed to voting Democratic that they'd vote for a yellow dog over a Republican, and that this term was mostly used in the South in the days when all the hard-line segregationists were Democrats.

  12. Stephen L. Hood said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 11:32 am

    Some enterprising linguistics grad student at Rice once plastered a small photo of Claude Debussy on the 'WC' door in the grad student bar, a cavernous basement under the Chemistry Building called Valhalla. The Nordic bar was known for its .50 cent beer and the lovely odor of bus station toilet.

  13. Ralph Hickok said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 11:35 am

    And then there's "powder room" for the ladies room, perhaps the most euphemistic of them all.

  14. Batchman said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 1:07 pm

    Do you mean to tell me that the Nordic bar charged half a penny for beer?

  15. Alexander Browne said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 2:58 pm

    @Ralph Hickok

    My partner and her family (from eastern Wisconsin) use "powder room" to mean what I'd call a "half bath" (after the real estate usage I guess): a bathroom (to use my default) with a toilet and sink, but no bath or shower.

  16. SlideSF said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 3:59 pm

    Although I am not in the habit of frequenting them, I am aware of more than a few powder rooms, particularly in nightclubs, where the designation is anything but euphemistic.

  17. David Morris said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 4:05 pm

    @Tom: I knew that, and was being flippant.

  18. Kimball Kramer said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 7:17 pm

    A gallery on West 57th Street in Manhattan has (or used to have) two small toilets side-by-side labeled "Us and "Them". You were supposed to use whichever one you felt comfortable using. Those are my favorite labels for toilet doors.

  19. Kaleberg said,

    December 26, 2020 @ 10:00 pm

    A friend of mine always just said that he was going to use the euphemism. I adopted the term. Everyone seems to know where I'll be. (Then again, my friend wrote a program for displaying text files incrementally on UNIX systems and called it "more", as in show me more, so I guess he was fond of direct names.)

  20. Robert Coren said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 10:23 am

    @Kimball Kramer: There's a restaurant in Cambridge (MA) that has two single-person restrooms, with sort-of-caricature profiles on the doors (not the same on on both) that are entirely ambiguous as to gender. (This memory is from several years ago; Cambridge is currently moving toward requiring gender-neutral bathrooms in public spaces.)

  21. Kate Bunting said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 12:05 pm

    This Brit is perfectly well aware that 'lavatory' and 'toilet' are euphemisms (aren't all the names for it, except the very crude ones?). I might ask to use the bathroom in a private house, if I didn't know my host very well, but I found it odd the first time I heard an American use the expression for the facilities in a public building.

  22. SlideSF said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 2:06 pm

    Speaking of euphemisms, some Americans use the expression "to go to the bathroom" not only for the facility, but for the act itself. Paul Theroux, in his semi-autobiography "My Secret History" mocks a fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Africa who is horrified by the locals: "They go to the bathroom in the street!

  23. Francois Lang said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 4:09 pm

    I recall decades ago a bar in Boston (no recollection of the name) where the sign above the euphemisms' doors was labeled "2P".

  24. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 4:29 pm

    In a novel I read decades ago, a female character enroute to the toilet tells a male character that she has to relieve herself. The male character tells her he’s glad she isn’t using euphemisms, which puzzled me because I thought using relieve in place of pee or urinate or other direct term was a euphemism.

    In my experience, terms for using the toilet vary a lot by household and are not necessarily distributed geographically. In some branches of my family, “go to the bathroom” or “use the bathroom” are the terms of choice. Peer pressure and marriage into families with different traditions has changed terminology in some households.

    Then there is, or was, an odd variation of referring to using the bathroom. In the 1980s, my daughter took a safety course for children. One thing they were taught — in the former age of landlines only — was to obscure the fact that no parent was in the house. The children were told to say they would take a message and give it to the parent “when they got out of the bathroom.” My daughter, following the script while I was next door briefly with a neighbor, was told kindly by another mom that she could “just tell your mom to call me when she is back home.”

  25. Rodger C said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 5:29 pm

    A friend of mine always just said that he was going to use the euphemism.

    I associate this with Edward Albee; can anyone pre-date it?

  26. Viseguy said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 6:20 pm

    The "pause" in the cartoon title, in addition to rhyming with "Claus", may or may not be a sly allusion to the old Coca-Cola slogan, "The pause that refreshes", which, when I was in (an all-boys) high school in the '60s, was the euphemism we often used when we weren't using the crude terms.

  27. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 7:44 pm

    Both "powder room" and "WC" seem to have specific technical usages in the architecture and building trades, at least in (some parts of) the US. A powder room is, as Alexander Browne noted, a half-bath (i.e. sink and toilet) usually located where dinner guests can easily access it. A WC is an enclosed toilet cubicle within a larger master bath.

    As for amusing restroom signage, my favorite is one spotted in a restaurant in Bolinas, California announcing "Restrooms are for seated customers only" — the humor in this case being unintentional.

  28. Michael Watts said,

    December 27, 2020 @ 11:04 pm

    a female character enroute to the toilet tells a male character that she has to relieve herself. The male character tells her he’s glad she isn’t using euphemisms, which puzzled me because I thought using relieve in place of pee or urinate or other direct term was a euphemism.

    The female character has directly stated what she's going to do, as opposed to saying she wishes to "powder her nose" or some other such function. The male is correct that she has spoken directly rather than using a conventional euphemism. She's just using a polite noneuphemism rather than an intentionally vulgar noneuphemism.

  29. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 12:38 am

    "The female character has directly stated what she's going to do"

    I don't think she has. She's said how she's going to feel once she's done it, leaving the what to the listener's imagination. For all we know it's a craving for cocaine she's going there to relieve.

  30. Michael Watts said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 2:45 am

    "The female character has directly stated what she's going to do"

    I don't think she has. She's said how she's going to feel once she's done it, leaving the what to the listener's imagination. For all we know it's a craving for cocaine she's going there to relieve.

    No, this argument makes no more sense than hearing that someone "kicked the bucket" and asking which bucket. The meaning of the phrase is explicit; compare Merriam-Webster sense 6, "to discharge the bladder or bowels [of oneself]".

  31. Peter Taylor said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 3:22 am

    The pointers and setters also tie in to the euphemism (perhaps a Britishism?) "to see a man about a dog".

    @Kate Bunting, arguably "to use the crapper" is neither euphemistic or crude.

  32. Philip Taylor said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 3:42 am

    As a Briton of nearly 74 years, I have known the expression "to [go to] see a man about a dog" for most of my life, yet this is the first time I have ever seen it explained as a euphemism for micturation and/or defæcation. I always understood it as implying "going to do something about which I would prefer not to be explicit", yet never thought of it as possibly referring to one or both of those two biological necessities. I now see that the OED acknowledges that meaning, at the same time acknowledging two others :

    P25. colloquial. to see a man (about a dog, horse, etc.) and variants: used euphemistically as a vague excuse for leaving, (a) to keep an undisclosed appointment; (b) to go to buy alcoholic drink; (c) to go to the toilet.

  33. Michael Watts said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 4:32 am

    arguably "to use the crapper" is neither euphemistic or crude.

    I would say it is crude, though at a low level of crudeness.

  34. Graeme said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 5:56 am

    'Dunny' is sadly falling into disuse in Australian Eng.
    From dung-ken for shit-house?
    Used more in the past, for the out-house or backyard toilet of the earth-closet style.

    Leaving the newer 'loo' as the most common everyday alternative to 'toilet'.
    Despite its relative recency, its etymology is unknown. So how euphemistic it is must be unknown too.

  35. Philip Taylor said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 6:34 am

    Isn't 'loo' thought to be from gardez l'eau, the warning call that traditionally preceded the emptying of chamber pots from first-floor (or higher) windows into the narrow streets below ? And as to 'crapper', although one could think of it as a reference to a vulgar term describing the act of defæcation, it could equally well be a reference to the immortal porcelain creation of Thomas Crapper Esq.

  36. Philip Taylor said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 6:37 am

    Oh yes, "dunny" — in my (British) youth, the 'dunn{e|i|y}kin', so quite possibly derived from "dung ken".

  37. Victor Mair said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 7:34 am

    I always thought that "loo" came from "Waterloo", implying W.C. ("water closet").

  38. Philip Taylor said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 8:16 am

    Well, the OED acknowledges the possibility of 'Waterloo' just as it does that of "gardez l'eau' (which it spells 'gardyloo') and several other proposed etymologies, but comes down in favour of none …

    Etymology: Origin unknown.

    Perhaps < French lieux (plural) latrines (1640), toilets (in later use short for lieux d'aisances : 1802), specific (euphemistic) use of lieu; the English form loo may result from association with the pronunciation of the earlier borrowing lieu n. Use of the French word in an English context in the meaning ‘privy’ may perhaps be shown by the following:

    1782 W. Mason Let. 14 Nov. in E. W. Harcourt Papers (1883) VII. 79 I am myself employed in constructing a lieu here in our great Residentiary house, & tho' I have many & great difficulties to encounter I trust it will turn out a paragon, both for sweetness, utility, & cheapness.

    Alternatively, perhaps shortened < the name of Waterloo (see Waterloo n.), perhaps punningly after water closet n.; perhaps compare also French water toilet (1913, chiefly in plural; < water closet n.); however, similar use of Waterloo has not been traced.

    It has also been suggested that the word is shortened from bourdaloue chamber pot of oblong shape ( < French bourdaloue (1762 or earlier in this sense) < the name of the Jesuit and preacher Louis Bourdaloue (1632–1704), with obscure allusion, perhaps to secrets of the confession); however, that word appears never to have had great currency in English, and is not attested in more general application to a toilet in either English or French.

    It is frequently suggested that the word is shortened from gardyloo n., but the assumed semantic development is considerable, and not supported by any evidence; additionally, the chronological gap is very considerable between the period when the cry would have had any contemporary currency and the earliest attestations of the present word.

    The suggestion that the word is shortened from ablution n. 6 is improbable on chronological grounds as well as in view of the irregularity of the suggested shortening.

  39. Benjamin E. Orsatti said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 9:52 am

    As one generally disinclined to employ euphemism for the ambiguity it necessarily generates, I've always made an exception for this situation.

    When you think about it, here you have a situation where people are gathered together at table, eating. Of course, the last thing anyone wants to do in such a situation is to conjure up images of excretion in the mind of one enjoying a meal.

    But, now that I think about it, wouldn't the best verbal indication of having to excuse oneself to attend to nature's call simply be to say, quietly, "excuse me"/"pardon me", stand up, and then leave?

  40. Robert Coren said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 10:56 am

    @Francois Lang: Many years ago – shortly after the UK went to decimal currency – I constructed (in my head, I don't think I ever tried to used it) an elaborate riddle in which a person started with some amount of (British) money and then went to a series of pubs and paid various amounts for various quantities of beer, and the question was "Now what does he have?", with the answer being "He has 2p". The listener is of course puzzled, because the arithmetic doesn't work, so you say "Well, after all that beer, you'd have…", etc.

  41. Robert Coren said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 10:57 am

    My husband will declare an intention to urinate by saying "i'm going to take a piss", but for defecation he often says "I'm going to use the toilet".

  42. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 11:42 am

    Michael Watts: Wiktionary notes two distinct senses of "relieve oneself", one corresponding to MW's sense 6, and the other referring to masturbation. Both are flagged as euphemistic.

  43. Jason M said,

    December 28, 2020 @ 3:03 pm

    In re: British euphemisms, I thought immediately of The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night film wherein Paul’s grandfather (the very clean one) is said not to be in the cabin because he has gone ‘down the….’

    In re: whether ‘gone to the Crapper’ is a euphemism, I am not sure. As Thomas Crapper still is the maker of many of the toilets in the UK today, it seems pretty literal to me, same as how the fact that I Googled just now to find Mr. Crapper’s first name, and I wouldn’t call Googling a euphemism for an internet search I actually did on Yahoo!

    As for loo’s origin, the only one that sniffs likely to this amateur philologist is the ‘lieu/x’ one, as it’s a natural anglicized pronunciation (eg, we pronounce it ‘in loo of’ despite using the French ‘lieu’ spelling). Weird thing, though, this etymology is supposed to be via (post WWI) returning servicemen from France, yet the first ‘loo’ as a restroom/pointer/setter/WC is in 1958 in my nGram search. WWII then?

    If “Water(loo)” closet were a thing, you’d think there’d be a single instance of it in nGram, but there ain’t. And I don’t see how you get from someone emptying a chamber pot (gardyloo, guardez l’eau) out a window to a room where you make the eau to throw, especially if earliest uses of ‘loo’ as the latter are in mid 20th century.

  44. Joyce Melton said,

    December 29, 2020 @ 7:01 am

    The funniest label on facilities I ever saw was in a BBQ retaurant. The Gents was labeled Steers and the Ladies was Heifers. I'm a farm kid. A steer is a castrated bull and a heifer is a cow too young to have had a calf.

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