When a person says he’s going to hit the head, what he means is that he plans to use the restroom. The phrase “hit the head” is taken from Coast Guard and naval jargon to mean a restroom. The word ‘head’ was commonly used by sailors and marine personnel to refer to the area designated in ancient ships, where they could relieve themselves. In fact the word ‘head’ is marked on the doors to these areas. It is fascinating to note that sailors had a great influence on the common society as can be seen by the origin of many popular terms and sayings.
The phrase “Hit the Head” has its origin in ancient sailing ships. The designated area for sailors to relieve themselves on such sailing vessels was usually beneath the deck in the front part of the ship or near the bow. The particular area was chosen to function like a restroom fro practical reasons. Firstly, due to the open area the odors would get dispelled in the air and not reach the main living areas. Secondly the area would get naturally cleaned and sanitized by the continuous spray of sea water.
The designated area on the ship for sailors to relieve themselves was located in proximity to the carved figurehead resting on the bow of the ship. Due to this, the area came to be informally known as the “hit the head”. Interestingly the term continued to be used despite the addition of modern amenities to military ships. The phrase “hit the head” has become a “hit” with generations of sailors who started using the term more as a euphemism. With the passage of time, the phrase initially popular with the sailors also came to be used in contemporary society.
The phrase “hit the head” is not the only example of military slang used in popular culture. A number of terms which we use so commonly have their origin in military and naval jargon. The word “wallop” has its origin to a popular event in naval history according to which Admiral Wallop was sent to France by King Henry VIII, to punish the French who had destroyed the city of Brighton. Wallop avenged the insult by severely damaging the French coast, thus making his name synonymous to the use of brutal force.
The phrase “hit the head” comes from naval history. Similarly the phrase “hunky-dory” related to sailor, has its origin in the name “Honki Dori”, a street in Japan popularly known for treating sailors with the diversions of their liking. In contemporary usage, the phrase “hunky dory” is a slang used to describe a situation which is fine or pleasant. Similarly the word “scuttlebutts”, a slang word used to mean office gossip originates from naval history where scuttlebutts meant barrels with stoppers which the sailors used for storing drinking water. While stopping for water at the scuttlebutts, sailors often indulged in gossip about the happenings on the ship.