Toilets can be named a lot of things: a loo, a water closet, a crapper, even a … John? So here is where the mystery lies. Sir John Harrington, a courtier in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, is usually credited with inventing the modern flush toilet. He wrote about it in his book, The Metamorphosis of Ajax, although the device described in the book was really more of a literary device than a mechanical one, meant as an allegory. More specifically, it was a political statement about the “stercus” (feces) that was ruining society.
Still, Harrington is believed to be the inventor of the modern flush toilet. Supposedly he had one in his mansion and also installed one for the queen in the palace around 1596. How it worked was that by pulling on a cord next to the toilet bowl, water would rush in from the “water closet” to flush away the waste. This is why toilets in the UK, France and other European countries are still either called water closets or designated by the letters WC.
So why is a toilet called a John? Because we believe the modern flush toilet was invented by a man named John. However, there is evidence that suggests that flush toilets were being used by ancient civilizations as early as the 26th century BC!
There is another theory as to why a toilet is called a John, although it is likely nothing more than a folk tale, as are most stories of the legendary King Arthur. The story goes that while the king was away fighting the Saxons, he left his brother John in charge. Upon his return, Arthur was so upset with the way John had run things, he named the toilet after him.