British Euphemisms

One of the charming and fascinating things about British culture is the contradictory use of euphemisms for some things, and brutally frank phrasings for other things. The word “toilet” is one such contradiction — whereas we Americans say “restroom” or “ladies room”, even properly-brought-up Brits will say “excuse me, where is the toilet?” I must admit, this one grates on my ear much, much more than any other British/American English difference. So I was deeply amused yesterday when I encountered a reversal of this yesterday at Fortnum & Mason. I finally have done something I’ve wanted to do since I first studied in London in 1986 — I had a cream tea service yesterday at Fortnum’s (it was yummy, and the strawberries were fantastic, perfectly in season). I had some confusion following the waitress’s directions to the ladies room, because when I did so all I saw was a door that said “ladies and gents cloakroom”. Now, when I think cloakroom, I think coat check; but indeed at Fortnum’s, the cloakroom is the restroom is the toilet!