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Posted by ESC on November 01, 2001

In Reply to: posted by R. Berg on November 01, 2001

: : : : : My wife and I were discussing, after watching the movie "Shrek" why there is always a half-moon on an outhouse. Any ideas?

: : : : Two ideas. It's a crescent moon. Moons (of any phase) may not have universally adorned real outhouses when outhouses were common. They're a convention of cartoons and other forms of fiction, much like all businesses being named Acme. I hope someone else can say how the moons got started.

: : : Put there for ventilation, no doubt. There have been books written about outhouses but there are none in my library. Could it be tied to signs painted on barns? Or maybe a crescent moon is just a logical shape. A full moon would allow someone to get a good look.

: : Yes, for ventilation, but why a moon at all? If you work with wood, about the first thing you notice is that without fancy tools it's much easier to cut straight lines than curves. A row of small square windows would ventilate as well.

: A follow-up to Bruce's post (put here because putting the follow-up below would erase the link): That explanation of the moon symbolism used in a preliterate society makes sense. (Now, in our postliterate society, doors are marked with crude human figures instead.) But the story at to explain the survival of women's facilities and the demise of men's sounds fabricated. If men wore out their outhouses faster than women wore out theirs (and why? because men outnumbered women on the prairie?) and consequently switched to the women's outhouse, the additional traffic there should have worn it out at a rate more than twice the previous rate. Then the women's outhouse would have fallen to ruin, too. People would then have had to build replacements. Are we to believe that, observing that the model with the crescent moon had outlasted the model with the star, they decided to go with the crescent moon because the associated building was evidently more durable?

See Bruce's post for another link.

This is from OuthouseMoon/history.htm The Outhouse Moon: a tribute to disappearing Americana
What does the crescent moon on outhouses
Answer One
*This answer taken from Yahoo Questions
"This was a tough one to track down. Luckily, the single site on the web that included the words "outhouse" and "moon" did indeed provide a useful explanation. On the Model Outhouses by K.K. page, which offers miniature replicas of historic outhouses hand-built by Kenneth Koch, we found the following insite: 'In earlier times when few people could read, the star on the door was for the men, and the moon for the ladies.' Why the star? Why the moon? Truth be told, we've got no idea. That said, we are proud of ourselves for thinking to check, a very comprehensive encyclopedia of icons and their meanings, but unfortunately the entry on the moon provided nothing in regards to outhouses. so ultimately, the mystery will go on...

Answer Two
*This answer was submitted by Robert Underwood.
"I believe the answer to the star and moon lies in astrology. The sun was a 'masculine' sign, and the moon 'feminine'. As you can imagine, men's outhouses were generally in worse condition than the women's, so eventually, men started using the ladies room, so the moon symbol survived, but not the sun."

Answer Three
*This answer was paraphrased from Nature Calls: The History, Lore and Charm of Outhouses by Dottie Booth. The moon symbol comes from the ancient symbol for femininity, Luna. Since many people could not read in the old days, the symbols showed who's privy was who's. Folklore tells us that women took better care of their outhouses, hence, more survived, and the moon became a lasting symbol associated with the outhouse. One reason women's outhouses outlasted men's involved porcupines chewing on the seats of men's outhouses (for the salt found in urine on the seat).

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