I have a friend named John who has a pet peeve. He cannot stand for someone to use the phrase, “going to the john,” meaning the bathroom. His being upset by that usage is reason for him to be confrontational even to the point of embarrassing someone. I have humored him, trying my best not to use the phrase accidentally although it has certainly been part of my phraseology for a long time. I have tried to argue with John that the Brits say they are going to the loo (although they don’t spell it Lou) and that he has no horror of someone using the term “dick.” Nevertheless, he has remained adamant regarding that usage.
Recently, he wrote, telling me that he never wants to hear anyone talk about going to the gym. He doesn’t like exercise, gets plenty of it working around the house, and is tired of hearing reports of gymnastic exercises. I tried to reason with him again, reminding him of my disinterest in antiques and my having been trapped once at his house when everyone was oohing and aahing over antiques. That did not assuage his opinion that all of the people with whom he carries on conversations should refrain from mentioning the gym or exercise. As I thought about John’s phobias, I decided to test his ability to laugh at himself and wrote him the following: “I know you don’t like to hear someone say they’re going to the ‘john,’ but are you now going to be so narrow-minded that we can’t say we’re going to the ‘jim?’”