Porta potties may not be the most elegant things to discuss, but they’re a vital part of large events. They allow for waste collection without setting up any sort of plumbing pipes or a septic tank.
A port of potty may sound like a modern concept. After all, event owners typically rent them for large-scale worksites and festivals.
However, the idea of the port o potty dates back much further than you’d think. Below, you can read about the history of porta potties and learn how they got their current name.
The porta potty didn’t always go by its current name. You can better understand its etymology by first learning its history.
The porta potty got its “official” start in the 1940s during World War II. Troops needed a way to collect and store human waste while they were away at sea. Before the porta potty’s widespread adoption, crew ships lived in unsanitary conditions and didn’t have a proper way to dispose of urine and feces.
Crews needed robust temporary toilets to collect their waste. They wanted to use these toilets overseas and bring them in whenever a unit was building a military base or moving between stations.
Thus, the portable toilet was born. These temporary toilets were ideal for use overseas or to use in a barren area with no existing buildings or other structures.
At the time, most of these portable devices were constructed with wood or metal (or some combination of the two materials). While they were quite sturdy, they were also very heavy. Their weight made them difficult to transport, but they did serve their purpose.
Odor control was also an issue for early porta potties, as manufacturers didn’t implement the deodorizing disks that modern porta potties feature.
World War II participants dealt with the bulky, smelly porta potties until the mid-1970s. During this era, Harvey Heather entered the scene with a one-piece fiberglass portable toilet. He nicknamed his invention the Strongbox, which more closely resembles the porta potty as we know it today.
Many salesmen of Heather’s time received this new product strongly. They sold it with ease, as it was durable, simple to clean, and hassle-free to haul long distances.
Ever since the 1970s, porta potties have continued to develop. Most often, manufacturers create them with polyurethane plastic because of the material’s cost-effectiveness and practicality.
Portable toilets are incredibly commonplace, and they’re useful for all types of events. For instance, the Capitol Building set up nearly 5,000 porta potties for President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
As porta potties gained popularity, they also took on many different names. Our preferred one is the portable toilet, as it’s very cut and dry.
However, there are multiple porta potty synonyms out there. If you ever find yourself looking for another word for porta potty, you can refer to this list:
- Port a privy (a nod to the sense of privacy this device offers in a public setting)
- Port toilet (this synonym emphasizes the “portable” part but ditches the childish “potty” part)
- Porta john
- Honey bucket
- Porta loo
- Port a can
Porta potties aren’t exclusive to the U.S. In fact, event hosts rent them out for use at gatherings all over the world. No matter if you’re at an outdoor market in Shanghai or the Rolling Loud festival in Portugal, you’re likely to see a portable toilet somewhere in your line of sight.
Not everyone refers to this device in the same way. Some funny porta potty names exist all over the world, so you might turn your head when you hear them for the first time.
Depending on where you’re living or visiting, another name for porta potty could be:
- Water closet: Europeans most commonly use this synonym. Sometimes, they’ll even shorten it to “WC” for more simplicity.
- Bog: Bog is a conversational word for toilet in British English, and many Britons use it to refer to the movable kind.
- Dunny: If you eat Vegemite with every meal and have seen a few kangaroos in your lifetime, you’ll refer to a movable toilet as a dunny. Australians usually call any toilet located outside a “dunny,” and a porta potty is no exception.
- Loo: The British love their slang words, and loo is another one to add to the list. This term originated from an early toilet company that manufactured a device known as the Waterloo, and it later got shortened to just “loo.”
- Privy: The people of North England and Scotland coined this term from the phrase “private place.”
- The Jacks: Jack Power, an Irishman, was the inventor of the first-ever multi-cubicle toilet. He tried to sell his toilet system under the name MultiPoo, but the Irish called it “the Jacks” instead to poke fun at him. Despite his resistance, the name stuck and even spread to single-cell and movable toilets.
Now that you’re nearly finished rifling through our reading material, you might still be wondering, Why are portable toilets called port-a-potties?
The answer is pretty straightforward — the name is easy for people to understand and refer to. The “porta” is short for portable, indicating the device’s movable nature. And the “potty” portion refers to the toilet component.
Everyone loves some alliteration, and porta potty rolls right off the tongue in everyday conversation. It has become a product name that most people around the world can recognize instantly.
Today, businesses that rent out these movable toilets have unique porta potty company names that play on the device’s main name. This tactic offers consumers a sense of familiarity while still giving the business a way to remain creative.
Do you have a large event or gathering coming up? If so, you may be interested in renting porta potties for your guests to use. If you live in the Placerville, CA region or the surrounding area, contact Wilkinson Portables. We provide sanitary porta potties for you to set up at your next event hassle-free.