Interesting article in today’s Guardian. It concerns the preservation of a urinal but that which caught my eye was this:
Known as the Westoe Netty, their significance has increased with Newcastle-Gateshead’s drive to be Europe’s alternative capital of culture when the official title comes to Liverpool next year. As well as the artistic links, dating to the painting of 1972, the urinals have linguistic distinction: the Geordie word “netty” for lavatory derives from Roman slang on Hadrian’s Wall which became “gabinetto” in Italian.
This would be a magnificently ancient pedigree indeed. The OED however pours cold water on the idea.
Netty, n. Eng. regional (north-east.)
It has been suggested that it is shortened < Italian gabbinetti toilets, but no evidence has been found to support this. Another theory suggests that the word is an alteration of necessary.
Ah well, so much for Hadrian’s Wall. Amusing first cite for the word though:
1825 J. T. BROCKETT Gloss. N. Country Words 147 Neddy, Netty, a certain place that will not bear a written explanation, but which is depicted to the very life in a tail-piece in the first edition of Bewick’s ‘Land Birds’ (1797), p. 285.