Has marine terminology ever left you scratching your head?
What’s in a name?
We were asked a great question by one of our very own employees:
“Why is the toilet in a boat called a ‘head'”?
It was one of those questions that, as we realized, none of us had ever questioned before. And it got us thinking, so we took to the internet.
Here is what we found out:
In the time when all boats were powered by the natural resources of wind, the facilities would be placed at the bow, or the head, of the vessel, for an extremely practical purposes. Since ships cannot sail directly into the wind, the odors that might emit from a shared facility were minimized as the wind carried the odor in the other direction. This probably made some sailors pretty thankful.
So, if one were to direct a person in need of a restroom to the closest water-closet, they would have to direct them towards the head of the ship. And so it goes.
While the head is no longer exclusively located at the the front of a boat, the term “head” has stuck with us. And that might not be a terrible thing, as it is a better, alternative way of wording than some of the other options out there…
“Hey, John, is there a can on this thing?” v.s. “Hey, John, is there a head on this thing?”
See what we mean?
Marine terminology may seem like it gets a little… off point, sometimes. But while the terminology may be outdated, in some cases, the phrases that we still use today, at one point in time, did hit the nail on the head.
*Please note that we are not experts in the field of terminology. This post may contain inaccuracies.