Posted by R. Berg on November 01, 2001

In Reply to: Moon 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 outhouse.com 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?