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Ode to Outhouses

Updated on January 2, 2013

Welcome To An Ode to Outhouses

'Tis the season of bugs, bears and sometimes bothersome badgers in the odiferous outhouse.

On the other hand, for others who love the "call of nature" and communing with it at every opportunity, there is joy in them thar jolly jakes and johnnys on the spot.

Let us not forget those bodacious biffies, outmoded orifices of odure, and amusing if not artfully adorned ablution huts that are part of the silly summer season.


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Silver-Tongued Synonyms for the Outhouse - In Praise of Pits, Potties, and Places of Ease!

It is not surprising in a world that abhors discussion of perfectly normal bodily functions (not to mention those practical places necessary to perform them in a discrete and comfortable manner), that there are so many entertaining euphemisms for the outdoor bathroom.

For those who need a refresher course on names for the place where one performs one's daily "business" in a natural environment, here is a short list from which to choose:

ablution hut, back-house, bank, biffy, bog, buoy, butt, can, cloaca, corncob and honey-dipper, crap house, crapper, dunny, earth-closet, fanny, hole, honey bucket, jake, Jerichco, john, johnny house, kybo, latrine, little brown shack out back, long-drop, netty, one/two/three/four holer, outbuilding, outhouse, pissoir, piss pot, pit, pondering place, pot, prat, privy, quacken, shithouse, shitter, sump, tail, thunderbox, throne room, tin can, tinkle pantry, toilet, toilet tent, water-closet


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Celebrate "World Tinkle Pantry Day"

Or, how to celebrate the wonders of water-closets

By Theolonius McTavish, a regular visitor to throne rooms of renown and off-the-beaten track places of ease

November 19th is a very auspicious occasion. It's none other than "International Tinkle Pantry Day".

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the little known term "tinkle pantry", it is the focal point and modest appliance found in most "water closets", "places of ease" or "comfort stations".

North Americans probably know the tinkle pantry by way of more familiar terms such as "throne room", "powder room" or just plain "restroom".

Few realize that the average person visits the toilet 2,500 times per year, or 6-8 times per day, which all adds up to about 3 years of one's life. Considering the fact that this humble private and sometimes public privy is the most frequently visited room in any home or workplace, precious little has been done to recognize it's vital role in society.

If truth be told, the tinkle pantry is a subject most avoid so as not to be considered a scruffy scatalogical storyteller. Considered a taboo dinner table topic, it is shunned by everyone except toddlers and parents who rejoice at the first step into adulthood by passing "Toilet Training 101" with flying colours.

It is rare indeed to see a politician of any stripe spend much time waxing on about the virtues of toilets. Precious few communities or even corporations consider celebrating with parades, marching bands, or even an official holiday, the invention of the toilet (made possible several thousand years ago by Chinese craftsmen and modernized by a British plumber named T.J. Crapper in the late 19th century). And, it wasn't until 1935 that "New World" tinkle pantry goers would be able to enjoy what most of us take for granted today, "splinter-free" toilet-paper.

Inspite of the fact that poker players do it with "royal flushes", and investors have seen their dollars go down the toilet recently, there is one organization that takes toilets seriously, the World Toilet Organization (WTO), a global non-profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide.

Founded in 2001 with 15 members, the WTO, (which focuses on toilets instead of water), now has 190 member organizations in 56 countries all working towards eliminating the toilet taboo and delivering sustainable sanitation.

It's not surprising that this organization decided to recognize and honor the 'great equalizer of humanity' with it's own day of remembrance - November 19th -- "World Toilet Day".

So when it comes to celebrating this day, perhaps clients of the can or comfort station will consider the merit of replacing depleting fossil fuel sources with ever-increasing supplies of fecal fuel and methane gas from munchkins like you and cows too!


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What does one wear to a potty party to celebrate "World Tinkle Pantry Day"?

All the fashion experts agree that if you want to blend in at a bodacious biffy bash or perfervid potty party, one should probably wear brown, beige or bright yellow!


Facts Behind the Fanny House and Flush

The outhouse is part of the pioneer past, particularly in America until the Second World War. A necessary "performance" place where one did one's "daily duty", it was place full of legend and lore that included as many scents and nonsense as one could find.

The history of sanitary engineering however began long before the birth of hardy country-dwellers, cottage folk, and campers.

In fact, records reveal the first flush toilet appeared in 1500 B.C., at the palace of King Midas.

Thanks to the Babylonians in the 6th century who learned to go with the flow, man first harnessed the power of gravity through latrines. Perhaps that is where "long-drops" got its name.

It wasn't until several hundred years later during the engineering advancements in the Roman Empire, that public latrines were used along with water from underground pipes that conveyed the waste into sewers.

In the Middle Ages, castles and monasteries accommodated something akin to an indoor outhouse, or throne room that consisted of a seat with a hole. Waste proceeded down a pipe and exited the building through a protrusion in the castle wall into the ground or into the moat surrounding the castle. No wonder no one wanted to go skinny-dipping in the moats.

During the Renaissance, form replaced function. Complex piping systems were replaced by beautifully decorated chamber pots. "Flushing" consisted of picking up colorful pieces of pottery and simply hurling waste out the window with a brief shout of warning "Gardyloo" to unsuspecting pedestrians nearby. While the absence of pipes meant no clogged drains, the lack of proper sanitation resulted in a tremendous loss of life due to plagues and pandemics.

It was not until the end of the 16th century that Sir John Harington, the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, invented a water closet with an actual flushing mechanism. Apparently the device was so noisy the Queen never used it.

The father of the modern flush toilet is not as tales go, is not one Thomas J. Crapper. Patent records indicate that it was actually Edward Humpherson, a one-time apprentice with Crapper, who invented the first pedestal, wash-down water closet in 1884 in England.

The advent of modern plumbing eliminated odor problems not to mention the feared "Black Death" and, outhouses became a popular punch line in American humor. Life was good.

Life looked like a bowl full of cherries, until people concerned with the health of the entire planet realized that "going with the flow" could be quite costly for everyone. Toilets flushing away millions of gallons of water every single day might have its limits. So who knows...we may see either a rebirth of the pioneer potty spirit or a waterless waste removal system. Only time will tell.


Image Credit: Outhouse illustration,

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Remember those Rump Room Rules?


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There's a Badger in the Outhouse!

Nifty New Northern Designs for Biffy Buoys - The Floating Fanny House -- The Utter Inn in Sweden


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Lament to the Loss of Literature for the Loo

Holy Crap! - From the "Tinkle Pantry Times"

Scientists and engineers have used their ingenious talent to come up with a professionally-designed, personal portable potty-powered vehicle.

Short-listed names for the dandy device include: "The Cozy Crapper", "Nutty Netty", or "Shift Happens!".


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There's something to be said for personal pronoun pot holes!



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Giraf Portable Travel Bidet
Giraf Portable Travel Bidet

Yes Virginia, your very own "Bidet-in-a-Bottle" -- a perfect addition to the biffy.


Cowboy Commandments:

And remember, never ever dig for water underneath the outhouse!


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SANTA HAD A CRAPPY CHRISTMAS... - Gives New Meaning to Ho Ho Ho & Going With The Flow!


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Decorating the outhouse for special occasions can be a challenge! - Which is why a woman's wise words and forceful finger alway helps.

The installation instructions didn't say anything about how to put a frigging holiday tree up with a star on top so Santa could drop his load and leave a few goodies behind!


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PICKS FOR THE POTTY - For those who need a privy primer!

Nature Calls: The History, Lore, and Charm of Outhouses
Nature Calls: The History, Lore, and Charm of Outhouses

For those who have a passion for outdoor pits, pots, and powder rooms.

All American Outhouse: Stories, Design & Construction
All American Outhouse: Stories, Design & Construction

For the do-it-yourself design and build folks with a large country spread.


Some have declared outhouses obsolete, outdated, and outmoded, while others consider these quaint countryside cubicles part of the indelible lore of the loo.

Outhouses by Famous Architects
Outhouses by Famous Architects

Architects with an appreciation of form and function will find this a most interesting book indeed.

The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition
The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, Third Edition

All you ever wanted to know about manure makeovers, (otherwise known as composting your crap).


The Portable Potty Poll

What nifty name grabs your fancy for a honey wagon (mobile manure spreading) company?

See results

Tales from the Tinkle Pantry - What piece of wit and wisdom do you want to pass along regarding biffies, latrines or privies?

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    • profile image

      Weriton 2 years ago

      they look great and are not overweight. Just hetlahy. I have a some great pictures I will send. Thanks again! Lisa, Cole, Kelsey, and Ben

    • MillBucks profile image

      MillBucks 5 years ago

      What a great lens, I want one of those potty go-carts! Lol

    • carcamping lm profile image

      carcamping lm 5 years ago

      I loved this! Very cute and witty. I just wrote a lens on Thomas Crapper and I used your lens as a favorite on my links because I really liked it so much! Blessed!

    • profile image

      tuneinabucket 5 years ago

      Good job. My dad used to collect outhouse art... yep outhouse art. He would have loved this bless his soul.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      Very Cute Lens.

    • deanna6812 profile image

      deanna6812 6 years ago

      Too funny! Our cottage has an outhouse, and it terrified me as a child! Having to go there at night, in the dark, with only a flashlight? Oh my!