Entries linking to jakes
late 14c., jakke "a mechanical device," from the masc. name Jack. The proper name was used in Middle English for "any common fellow," and thereafter extended to various appliances which do the work of common servants (1570s). Also used generically of male animals (1620s, see jackass, jackdaw, etc.).
As a portable contrivance for raising weight by force from below, 1703. As the name of a device for pulling off boots from 1670s. The jack in a pack of playing cards (1670s) is in German Bauer "peasant." Slang meaning "money" is by 1890 (in earlier slang it meant "a small coin"). Jack-towel, one sewn together at the ends round a roller, is from 1795. The jack of Union Jack is a nautical term for "small flag at the bow of a ship" (1630s) and perhaps is from the word's secondary sense of "smaller than normal size."
"toilet," 1932, probably from jakes, used for "toilet" since 15c. Meaning "prostitute's customer" is from 1911, probably from the common, and thus anonymous, name by which they identified themselves. Meaning "policeman" is by 1901, from shortening of johndarm (1823), a jocular Englishing of gendarme.
"John Darm! who's he?" "What, don't you know!
In Paris he is all the go;
Like money here,—he's every thing;
A demigod—at least a king!
You cannot fight, you cannot drink,
Nor have a spree, nor hardly think,
For fear you should create a charm,
To conjure up the fiend John Darm!
["John Darm," in "Varieties in Verse," John Ogden, London, 1823]
updated on January 23, 2016