We all have our favorite endearing term for the restroom or, more specifically, the toilet. A common term that most have heard, whether you use it or not, is “the john.” If you’ve ever wondered where the term came from, we’re here to uncover the mystery.

Taking a look through history, there are actually two probable causes that led to calling the toilet “the john.” The first dates back to Medieval times, when “Jake” and “Jack” were popular names for common men, and later, common objects. At one point in time these names began to be used for describing a small, smelly restroom area inside of a house. Only the very wealthy had jakes/jacks inside of their homes– most others were located somewhere outside. The name “John” was later derived from “Jake” and “Jack.”

Secondly but most notable amongst historians, John was the name of the first man credited with inventing the first flushing toilet. John Harington was born during the time in which Queen Elizabeth reigned. His mother was a member of the queen’s chamber. Praised for his work as both a poet and an inventor, Harington created a written plan for a mechanism that would serve as a flushing toilet. At the time, court members in England were thrilled at the idea of a device that could carry waste farther away from private homes.

Harington named his flushing toilet concept the “Ajax.” Known for writing several published works, one of his most popular pieces came to fruition shortly after concepting the flushing toilet. It was titled, “A New Disclosure upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax.” While the publication highlighted his invention, the larger focus was on the idea of excrement poisoning the state. The book was later banned for a while due to making accusations about Earl of Leicester. This angered but queen, but Harington still installed a flushing toilet for her in 1596, in addition to one in his own home.

Unfortunately, John Harington died at age 51. The “Ajax” invention did not take off. Instead, English citizens had to wait until the 18th century for the creation of the S-bend, which is when lavatories everywhere saw a true improvement. On the bright side, wherever Harington is today, he can be proud of his namesake and the fact that people worldwide still sometimes reference the toilet as “the john.”

Mr. John offers a wide range of products, including portable toilets, restroom trailers, office trailers, storage containers, and ground-level office containers. Mr. John’s restroom fleet now exceeds 5,000 poly-plastic units, including standard, flushing, and wheelchair-accessible models. We continue to focus on offering a diverse product line and strive to provide the highest level of customer service. Interested in what we can do? Get in touch