I've heard: "I've to go the potty", "I have to meet Mr John", "Nature is calling me, I have to go", "I've to go to the rest room".

These sentences aren't formal, are they? Is there any other way that I can use it when I'm in a meeting?

closed as primarily opinion-based by FumbleFingers, choster, phenry, Kristina Lopez, tchrist Jan 31 '14 at 0:24

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This can be left here, if this is what linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts want to discuss, but I thought questions like this were why English Language Learners was created. – J.R. Jan 28 '14 at 11:06
  • @J.R. There's an awful lot in the question for English language enthusiasts. The way "U/non-U" distinctions meant that upper class people preferred "toilet" (if referring to it at all was necessary) while middle-class people preferred "lavatory" or being euphemistic, along with different views as to what counted as "formal", and then how those distinctions changed over time, as just one aspect. There's easily a good 3,000 word answer to this one, if someone had the time ;) – Jon Hanna Jan 28 '14 at 11:31
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    @Jon - I completely agree with what you're saying there - which is why I've recently made an ELL meta post about how the ELL/ELU difference is more about the answers being sought than the questions being asked. Reading this particular question, though, I don't get the feeling that this O.P. is looking for that 3,000-word answer in this case – but it might make interesting reading material once he finds his way into the bathroom. :^) – J.R. Jan 28 '14 at 11:34
  • @J.R. The main reason I abandoned my answer after the first couple of paragraphs ;) – Jon Hanna Jan 28 '14 at 11:44
  • @J.R. Maybe someone will do a good blog post on "What we talk about, when we talk about toilets". – Jon Hanna Jan 28 '14 at 11:45

In the UK (I notice you've tagged this British English) "loo" is used fairly ubiquitously even in a semi-formal context. It is so widely used that it's become acceptable in all kinds of environments. It will obviously depend on your workplace but I would be able to use the phrase:

Excuse me, I'm just going to the loo.

at work and that would not be inappropriate. If you were in a more formal context you could say

Excuse me, I'm just going to the toilet.

You could substitute "bathroom" for "toilet" if you wanted to be more euphemistic, but if you wanted to be less explicit, I'd recommend avoiding the word altogether. "Bathroom" is not generally used in normal/informal conversation in the UK to mean toilet ("bathroom" normally means the room in your house which contains the bath, shower, toilet, etc.) but might work in a more formal context.

Excuse me for a moment


Excuse me, back in a minute

are less explicit.

To deal with one of the specific examples you gave, potty is not a word for toilets, it's a word for the pseudo-toilets small children use before they are used to using a real toilet (see pictures). Potty therefore is not a word you would ever use in a formal or informal context to refer to the normal act of going to the toilet. "Go to the potty" would be used, for example, when a mother was talking about her toddler. The key difference here is that a potty is actually a different thing to a toilet and you say "go to the toilet" when you're going to the toilet and "go to the potty" when you're going to use a potty.

  • I got it now.. about how this should be asked in such a way.. and learned new word loo – Akbar Sha Ebrahim Jan 28 '14 at 11:46
  • No worries. Note that I talked about "loo" because of your British English tag. Many Americans don't even know this word, never mind use it. – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 12:34
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    "Loo" is actually an informal word dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/loo?q=loo and therefore not something to say in a formal context. – Tristan r Jan 28 '14 at 13:39
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    Can you substantiate the claim that "Many Americans don't even know this word, never mind use it"? There are many Anglicisms we don't know or don't use, but as an American I'm quite certain the vast majority of Americans know about the loo. – virmaior Jan 28 '14 at 13:52
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    @starsplusplus, maybe the puzzled look you get is because you offered that personal information at all, not your choice of words. lol! I also disagree with that statement that "potty" isn't used by adults for themselves. In the US, "I need to go potty" is used all the time among friends. I'd suggest using some citations for your answers, it will certainly help your score. :-) – Kristina Lopez Jan 28 '14 at 21:10

In your examples I wouldn't put the first three in a 'formal' category. If you're in a meeting a must inform everyone why you are leaving "Excuse me, I just need to use the rest room" would be a perfectly acceptable way to do this. Depending on the meeting you could probably just say "Excuse me for a moment" without feeling the need to tell everyone what you're doing.

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    -1 for "rest room". Question is tagged British English. – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 11:00
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    @starsplusplus - That's a bit rough, I think. Not everyone looks at the tags all that carefully (at least, I don't). If the O.P. really wants a "British English" answer only, that should be mentioned explicitly in the question, not hinted at with a tag. It seems like a comment could have been left instead of a downvote. – J.R. Jan 28 '14 at 11:03
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    @J.R. Hmm well I am new to ELU but I was following similar guidelines to other SE sites. If someone asked a question tagged C++ on StackOverflow and was given an answer in Python it would be promptly downvoted, especially if the answer didn't acknowledge it. Askers are encouraged to use tags instead of repeating themselves in the title or the question. I know ELU is a smaller site but I thought the same principles would apply. What is the British English tag supposed to indicate if not that they want answers in British English? – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 11:09
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    @star - I think the difference between Python and C++ is a bit more pronounced than the difference between AmE and BrE. I'd have recommended a comment along the lines of, "Question is tagged as British English, and it should be noted that rest room is not used in the U.K." That makes the point just fine, without downvoting a user who is answering his very first question – but perhaps there's a meta question here? Moreover, when it's an O.P. asking their first question, I'm not sure I'd put so much stock in the tags. – J.R. Jan 28 '14 at 11:14
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    @star The way the C++ tag on SO operates is not a good example to follow! – andy256 Jan 28 '14 at 11:33

"Use the bathroom" is the most common euphemism, at least in the UK.

Some other alternatives:

  • "Use the gents / ladies" - this is slightly more chatty, possibly better suited to a business context.
  • "Use the facilities" - also common, but it avoids the issue so much it sounds a little silly to me.

In a highly formal context the whole issue would be avoided. If you're about to close a big deal, hold it! And you don't see the Queen asking Mr President to "use the John". Instead she tells one of her aides, who tells one of his aides.

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    Why use a euphemism at all? If I want to go to the toilet I want a toilet, not a bath. What would you say if you actually wanted to find the bathroom? – andy256 Jan 28 '14 at 11:36
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    andy256, this answer is misleading. In the UK, people don't normally talk about using a "bathroom" to mean a toilet. That is a distinctive part of American English. – Tristan r Jan 28 '14 at 13:08

These sentences aren't formal, are they? Is there any other way that I can use it when I'm in a meeting?

They are not British, either. I mentioned that because you tagged your question as British English.

In the UK at least, the only context in which people talk about potties is when discussing little children who use an actual potty http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/potty_2 This has no meaning when discussing anyone else who uses an actual toilet.

Restroom is part of American English in particular http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/restroom?q=restroom , and is not used in the UK.

I don't know about your other, two examples but, they are not British.

If you want a way to say that you need to use a toilet, particularly a formal way, there is nothing wrong with saying I need to go to toilet or I have to go to toilet. You could also say I have to go to the lavatory but, that is rather old-fashioned and not as common.

  • I don't think a call of nature (OP's 3rd example) is an area-specific term. I think you can say that in the UK. But it's a bit flowery, so I'm not sure it's a good one to recommend. – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 13:49
  • Yes, it can be said but, the wording chosen for the third example is extremely peculiar and unfamiliar in the UK. – Tristan r Jan 28 '14 at 14:25
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    Agreed. "Meet Mr John" is peculiar wording as well, though I've heard Americans say "go to the john" meaning toilet. – starsplusplus Jan 28 '14 at 14:27

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