baths [swimming]

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
#1
baths

This use of baths, I have not been familiar with it. How commonly is it used in writing or conversation, as opposed to 'a pool' or 'a swimming pool'? I ran into it as I was reading the book below, and for a minute I thought Morag took her daughter to a nearby public bath, supposed to be one where you dip and warm yourselves, not to take a swim, for comfort.

That summer, Morag also took Jasmine to nearby baths to teach her to swim. She knew that Marcus would make contact at some stage and bid to take his daughter back to Austin and his house by the lakeside, even for a brief spell. [...] she wanted the reassurance, with the lake such an attraction, of knowing that Jasmine was able to swim.
('Mummy, Take Me Home' by David Leslie)
WR dictionary: (usually plural) a place that provides baths or a swimming pool for public use
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    #3
    I have always said the baths or swimming baths. But if you look in the yellow pages in the UK, you will see that they call themselves (Public) Swimming Pools.

    To me, a swimming pool is something that goes with your house, e.g. in countries like Spain or Portugal.

    Language changes!
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    #4
    This is common in British English. It dates from the late 19th century when the only public swimming pools were in public bath houses.
    Hi. You wouldn't call the same facility a (swimming) pool, Glasguensis?

    Edit: Now that I see e2efour's post, it looks as though 'a (swimming) pool' is taking its place for a facility that is open to the public for swimming.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    #5
    In BE, it is very common. It is the usual informal word but it used in the context above. The essence is that (i) it is open to the public. e.g. a hotel would not have "baths" in the sense of a swimming pool. (ii) the swimming pool itself is enclosed.

    Baths is not used for an open-air swimming pool, even if they were open to the public. (Although once or twice I have heard, "They have got open-air baths in <name of town>." I would consider that wrong usage.)

    Baths also incorporates the idea of changing rooms, showers, and usually diving boards.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    #6
    Swimming pool is becoming more common, as newer facilities have replaced the old public bath houses. But Morag is (roughly) the same age as me and this is the word I used as a child, and no doubt the word she would use.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    #7
    In BE, it is very common. It is the usual informal word but it used in the context above. The essence is that (i) it is open to the public. e.g. a hotel would not have "baths" in the sense of a swimming pool. (ii) the swimming pool itself is enclosed.

    Baths is not used for an open-air swimming pool, even if they were open to the public. (Although once or twice I have heard, "They have got open-air baths in <name of town>." I would consider that wrong usage.)

    Baths also incorporates the idea of changing rooms, showers, and usually diving boards.
    Hi, Paul. I see, so normally swimming baths are inside buildings. Thanks.

    Swimming pool is becoming more common, as newer facilities have replaced the old public bath houses. But Morag is (roughly) the same age as me and this is the word I used as a child, and no doubt the word she would use.
    Just as an aside, how could you know this lady is about the same age as you? Is this story famous? She is from Scotland and the story develops there and in the U.S.

     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    #10
    I think the 'swimming baths' that you find are older facilities, and I probably wouldn't use it to refer to the newer facilities. The Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh was one I frequented, and it was always a 'swimming pool'. I also used to go to one that was called 'swimming baths' (that has since closed down) in an old building. I would say the baths are for the same reason that I say the trousers are.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    #11
    Having seen "swimming baths" dozens of times in British books, I was quite surprised when I first arrived in Dunoon and discovered that they had a public "swimming pool"....
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    #12
    Hi, Nat. So there is a tendency you say 'swimming pool' rather than 'swimming baths.' And, RM1, so it's British. Even in the UK the word now is 'swimming pool.' I see

    Thanks, both of you.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    #13
    Yes, have a look at the Ngram for 'swimming pool' and 'swimming baths' in BrE: same frequency in 1930 but since then 'swimming pool' has massively overtaken 'swimming baths'.
     
    English (Midlands UK)
    #14
    Several factors influenced the use of baths (always plural). One was often the presence in the same building of slipper baths for washing in - very useful, I can assure you, when you've been digging a sewer all day for your new bathroom and haven't installed your new shower yet! The other factor was that there were often two pools (junior and senior or men's and women's) in the same building. A pool was the standard term for an open-air facility.

    (Context: British Midlands 1946-1976 at least.)

    I'm not sure how much to rely on that ngram, Natkretep - it may simply mean that the private open-air swimming pool has become much more common, and have no relevance to public baths ????
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    #15
    (Context: British Midlands 1946-1976 at least.)
    Roughly my dates too... I don't remember seeing you. :)

    I'm not sure how much to rely on that ngram, Natkretep - it may simply mean that the private open-air swimming pool has become much more common, and have no relevance to public baths ????
    The Ngram changes dramatically if you use the search terms "public swimming pool,public baths".
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    #16
    Here, should it be 'baths is,' regarding it as a set of baths? Just crossed my mind.
    In that example it should be plural, because it's referring to baths in general, rather than a specific facility. If you were referring to a specific facility you would use the singular : Calder Street Baths is closed for maintenance.

    You gave the reference of the book - I looked it up on an online bookstore and was able to read the first few pages, which told me where she was from and how old she was.
     
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