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Sink Room or Scullery

A listener had told us that she’d bought an old house with a separate room off of the kitchen that contained a dishwashing sink and cupboards and wondered what to call it. We noted that it’s sometimes called simply a sink room, but many...

Sink Room in an Old House

Lola in Madison, Wisconsin, just bought a 1921 house that has a separate room beside the kitchen for a dishwashing sink and cupboards. She and her partner are unsure what to call it. The sink room, maybe? Yes! The name reflects the history of how...

Biffy Outhouse Origin

A Tuscon, Arizona, listener is right to be skeptical when someone suggests to her that the term biffy, meaning “portable toilet,” is an acronym for Bathroom in Forest for You. The etymology of biffy has eluded researchers for years...

“Get Out of My Bathtub!” While Swinging

Sam in Brooklyn, New York, recalls that as a child in Arkansas, she and her friends would say Get out of my bathtub! when more than one child on a swing set began swinging in sync. Over the years, listeners have shared other versions, including Get...

Johnny on the Spot

Does johnny-on-the-spot refer to a person or a porta-potty? Or both? The term johnny-on-the-spot, meaning a fellow who helpfully shows up at just the right instant, dates to the 1870s. But in the early 1900s, the john became a common euphemism for...

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