Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Language police inquiry
Before we even get to our big question, we need to clear preliminary underbrush aside.Â English does not really have a word for the small room furnished with a water closet (incorrectly called a toilet, a word that properly denotes not an object but the process or activity involving a hairbrush, innumerable lotions and unctions, a dressing gown, a mirror, and the like) and lavatory (semi-correctly called a washbasin and incorrectly called a sink).Â Perhaps because there is no possible way to bathe in it, we call it a bathroom or even more strangely, a bath.Â Â Other languages known to me are awash in similar fogs of euphemism and indirection here. Â Spanish-speaking countries often have these marked for caballerosÂ (but I have never seen a hitching rail), and none for peatÃ³ns.
One way or another, we get to it, and find equipment for one person at a time, marked graphically or verbally for either men or women.Â Why?Â what modesty is offended by using one of these, alone, after someone of the opposite sex has done so, modesty that does not demand hotel rooms be so segregated?Â Why should someone be standing around waiting for the one on the left when the other is empty? But this is not a language question.
We may also find a sign that reads Unisex. Ah, and now we come to my question:Â why is a uniperson, disex (or multigender) bathroom, labelled with a madeup word that is wrong both ways, with no fastidious or euphemistic result?
Update 13/VIII/13: anyone who reads this far (and I’m humbled by seeing more than 30 comments!) deserves more and better lunacy.Â So with the thinnest possible connection, I nominate (i) Jonathan Miller’s immortal bit (by the way, the complete BtF is here, woo hoo!) and (ii) a Wikipedia article I never in my wildest fevered dreams imagined could exist, let alone extend beyond about fifty words.
It is a wondrous world, in so many ways
Author: Michael O'Hare
Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training.
He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at UniversitÃ Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs.
At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4Ã—5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.
View all posts by Michael O'Hare
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