"Head," in the naaavy...

Avast, mateys! A nautical-type question here:

Why is the toity on a ship referred to as the “head”? (Please, no lonely-sailor oral sex jokes…too easy)

“I have sailed more than men have dreamed” (or something like that)–some dork

As a kid on my first long boat ride, and feeling somewhat queasy, my theory was that it derived its name from the fact that that’s where all the waste was coming from.

On sixteenth to eighteenth century sailing ships, the “facilities” for the crew were seats over holes in the beak-head. The beak-head is the triangular “balcony” that sticks out from the bow of old sailing ships. (The crew slept in the forecastle at the bow of the ship, the officers in quarters at the stern, and the junior officers-in-training slept just forward of the officers near the mid-ship–hence midshipmen.) Officers used chamber pots, just as people ashore did. The sailors were expected to just hang out over the bow and let the next wave perform their flushing.

“Going to the beak-head” became “going to the head.”


Greg opined:

We just called that “leaning over the rail, telling Ralph about the Buick”. Ah, Hash browns and pork chops… were they a banquet or not?

Ranger Jeff
The Idol of American Youth

Always drink* upstream * from the herd.

Hey, Jeem…

What do they call it in the Swedish navy?

Vaya con huevos.

Olivia Isil’s book, When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse, There’s the Devil to Pay, describes the origin of seafaring words in everyday speech, and backs up Tomndeb’s comment about the beakhead. She adds that the origin of the beakhead was the ornate bronze beaks that served as ramming instruments on the bows (or heads) of Roman galleys. The name “beakhead” was then taken on in the sailing ship era, as Tomndeb says.

It was essentially a work platform, decked with grating and open to the sea below. The constant flushing action of the waves washing thru the grating made it an ideal lavatory.

my guess is “Olaf’s Loafenfallenholen”

But they are exceptionally clean people, so i’m guessing they usually just hold it in until they reach shore.

“I have crapped more than I have dreamed of sailing men” – same dork, take 2