Ruth Spencer takes a look at the smallest room in search of a euphemism for our times

The uncouth have long been disappointed by such promising artworks as Titian's A Woman At Her Toilet. If you read historical novels, you may have had to suppress a snigger as the heroine made an elaborate toilet, and wonder if you had ever made one yourself. How elaborate are we talking?

That's because there's no such thing as a toilet. The word, like all our words for the porcelain throne, is a euphemism. A toile is a dressing-table cloth and, for most of its life, the word toilet meant to get dressed and do your hair.

While the pedants of the English-speaking world chafe over creeping Americanisms like bathroom and washroom, our most "proper" words are not English at all. Toilet is French; lavatory comes from the Latin lavatorium, literally a place for washing — and we're back to washroom.

But an elaborate toilet is exactly the kind of thing to appeal to Aucklanders. If we don't want American or French or Latin to do our dirty talk for us, it's time Tamaki Makaurau had its own euphemism for the indoor outhouse. Here are the top 10 contenders:


The Study
Often appearing in real estate brochures as the mysterious .5 of 2.5 bedrooms, The Study is a unique feature of townhouse living. Too tiny for a bed, too big for a cupboard, and with more publications on display than the rest of the house, The Study is a perfect euphemism the smallest room. The paper scroll you find there might not be a degree from Unitec but at least you can study the latest Metro in peace and quiet.

The Tinny House
Where, naturally, you use the pot. At the Tinny House every deal is a dunny deal. You could even consider yourself something of a P dealer. See also: the Powder Room, a place in which one powders one's nose. This seems a purpose-built Auckland euphemism, provided you're not too specific about what the powder might be.

The Water Feature
Don't let your dignity take a long drop: the Water Feature conjures a spa-like sanctum of Buddha heads, incense and whale noises, putting the sweet into ensuite. While the only one making whale noises will be a struggling occupant, asking the hostess if you can see the Water Feature is demure enough to prevent one being flushed with shame.

The Supersitty
Wags may insert an H, but where we sit is where we stand, so to speak. Once you're in the safety of the Supersitty, take a seat on the Urinary Pan. When things get cramped and uncomfortable, the Urinary Pan offers some much-needed relief: traffic and housing may be blocked up but inside your own Supersitty everything is free-flow.

The Parnell Baths
Let smaller towns go to the bog; in Auckland we pop to the Baths to drop the kids off at a classier kind of pool. If that's too tame, the adventurous can add a frisson of excitement to their ablutions and excuse themselves to feed the sharks at Kelly Tarltons.

Sparkling waters and predominantly white, the little house becomes more of a little house you can't afford, and what could be more Auckland than that?

The Len
Americans refer to the loo as the john, and even lock it up with a john key, but for a facility that feels closer to the heart of the city we can't look past Len. Head to the Len when you need to spend a deputy mayor.

The Privy Council
The last resort of the desperate. Use this euphemism when you're forced to utilise the mall rest rooms, or the loo on a plane after the dinner service. "Pardon me, I'm afraid I'll have to appeal to the Privy Council" should evoke cries of "good luck" from your well-wishers and a bill from your lawyer. Also known as the Bain Drain.

The Kim DotCommode
A necessarium for the high-tech, going to the Kim should be a foray into the future of the thunderbox, but, in reality, is sadly prone to leaks. Head to the Kim at the moment of truth when you need to make a mega upload, but beware the toilet paper — it's accused of being a flimsy tissue of lies. You can use the Kim in relative privacy now that it's no longer so prominent in the media, which many feel is a great public convenience.

The Muss
One of the oldest names for the loo is the Jakes. Shakespeare himself went to the jakes — but who was Jake? We'll never know, but our most famous Jake can lend his nickname to the lav. The Muss by any other name would smell as sweet, although even through a shot of Glade that smell may be distinctly eggy.