1. It could be a social distancing joke.

    But I doubt it. I think it’s just an absurdity. When you don’t have laundry in your building, going to the laundromat is a very significant and burdensome trek. And if you life in an apartment in Manhattan it can be next to impossible. It really can feel like being required to climb a mountain.

    It’s an exaggeration but it is relatable if you ever had to do it on a regular basis.

  2. They’re going down the mountain, not up. Leaving their building to do laundry is being metaphorically shown as like descending from the mountaintop (with a rather tedious return trip ahead).

    Mind you, given that a lot of buildings with laundry machines put them in the basement, the metaphor breaks down a little….

  3. The caption doesn’t seem quite right. Saying that she needs “…to get laundry in…” implies that she is a public-spirited person about to deliver a zillion socks. If she had said “…need to get A laundry in…”, then I would understand it as a gripe about installing some machines.

  4. I don’t think they are climbing down. I think they are climbing up. Because that’s harder and more unpleasant and therefore funnier. The dude looks like he is climbing or rappelling down, but I think that’s because the artist used a photo for reference and didn’t think about differing posture for going up or down.

    One thing I learned after living in a miserable basement apartment is that having to take laundry to the laundromat is awful. Especially in winter. I refuse to even consider living in a place if there is not laundry in the building (note the lack of indefinite article, Kilby. That’s the way I say it and the way everyone I know would say it).

    I joke that if I ever won a huge lottery prize I would buy clothes, wear them once, and then throw them away. Some people have said that’s wasteful and I tell them it’s a joke. I’d donate the to charity. But that’s not true. I’d hire someone to burn them!

  5. For a long time I saved the good ones from the New Yorker. Then I just read them and enjoyed the good ones. Decades later I now wish they had less duds.

  6. @ SingaporeBill – I’ve never lived in a high-rise, and (thankfully!) have not been dependent on community washing machines since I finished college, so I’m not up on that obscure piece of lingo.
    P.S. I do remember a guy in college who once said “I don’t feel like doing laundry: I’m going to go out and buy some new clothes.” We all laughed, but I never did find out if it was serious, or just a joke.

  7. Was this possibly one of the New Yorker’s “Caption contests.”? Because it really feels like the caption was just attached to the picture.

  8. If you’ve ever lived on or above the 3rd floor of a 4+ floor walk-up with no laundry in the basement, you recognize that this is NOT a joke.

  9. ignatzz — one of the people is carrying laundry detergent, and the other has a laundry bag. I think this was written this way.

    For me, it makes perfect sense. I was assuming that the laundromat was at the top of the mountain, rather than that they lived at the top of the mountain, but either way makes sense: they live somewhere in which the only way to get to a laundromat includes climbing a mountain. And they’re annoyed at it, and really need to get their own washing machine.

  10. Both “get laundry” and “get a laundry room” sound natural to me, but not “get a laundry.”

  11. This was confusing to me. I have always considered “laundry” to be clothes that have been or need to be washed. The physical room or building is a “laundromat”.

  12. “A laundry” sounds wrong to me, but “a chinese laundry” sounds fine — well, wrong for other reasons…

  13. Then there was that character on “Friday Night Lights” played by the low-rent version of Matt Damon called “Landry”, whom we always called “Laundry”; he was recently in the movie “Vice” as the narrator whom you see towards the end of the movie — Jesse Plemons. Meanwhile, Matt Damon in “Ford vs. Ferrari” seemed like he was trying to be a low rent version of Jesse Plemons…

  14. MarkM: You call a physical room with coin-operated machines in an apartment complex a “laundromat”? For me, it’s only a laundromat if it’s a separate business.

  15. I never wear new clothes until I run them through the wash once, so that wouldn’t save me any time or trouble. I’m at the point where my dryer has stopped working and probably isn’t worth fixing. So I need to replace it, but in the meantime I have to take wet clothes to the laundromat to dry. I had to call ahead to check to make sure they were still operating.

  16. First definition with Merriam-Webster is a facility for washing clothes.


    laun·​dry | \ ˈlȯn-drē , ˈlän- \
    plural laundries

    Definition of laundry
    1a: a room for doing the family wash
    b: a commercial laundering establishment
    2: clothes or linens that have been or are to be laundered

    Laundromat is a trademark that got genericized and, in the same article, Wikipedia claims that laundry rooms in apartment blocks are laundromats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-service_laundry

    I think some people are forgetting the redundancy of language. We will often omit words in a sentences. What the lady is say, if written out in full, would be:

    “We really need to get laundry [facilities] in our [apartment] building [because schlepping these clothes around is inconvenient and unpleasant].”
    “We really need to get [a] laundry [room] in our [apartment] building [because schlepping these clothes around is inconvenient and unpleasant].”

  17. SingaporeBill, I can’t speak as to what others intended, but I wasn’t attempting to claim what was or wasn’t the “official” definition of any word, but rather just commenting on how my usage differed from others in the thread. Your comment seems akin to consulting a dictionary or Wikipedia to see whether one should say “soda” or “pop.”

  18. Dude, relax yourself. The conversation around use and discussions of “laundry” and the doing of are the point of the conversation. If I were concerned about who is right, well, I wouldn’t need to post. It’s me, obviously. 🙂

    However, dictionaries are generally descriptivist (I know M-W has said they are) and reflect how it is used. The M-W entry says:
    First Known Use of laundry
    1577, in the meaning defined at sense 1a
    So, we see how the language has evolved with use.

    Also, the verb form seems to have evolved from the noun
    First Known Use of launder
    1664, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1
    1667, in the meaning defined above

    Launder? A noun? Yes indeed!
    launder noun
    Definition of launder (Entry 2 of 2)
    : TROUGH
    especially : a box conduit conveying particulate material suspended in water in ore dressing

    We also see why companies with trademarks get so worked up when they are used generically. I wonder if Google is in danger of losing trademark for its search engine.

  19. BTW, pop. 😀

    But really, having lived in multiple promises and several different countries, I consider matters of “free variation” to all be valid.

  20. Multiple promises? Well, I guess that makes sense in a sort of poetic accident kind of way.

  21. It’s a regional thing.


    Yes, “get laundry in our building” sounds weird to me and not something I’d say and I’d say laundry *facilities* but… I have heard “laundry” used this way especially in urban areas where apartment dwelling out number single family living.

    It’s *that* regional. No one in Berkeley, San Leandro, or Richmond would say “laundry” but everyone across the Bay in San Francisco would. And in Oakland it depends on whether you live north or south of Harrison Street. (Okay, I’m exaggerating … but not by much.)

    Thing is …. whether it makes sense or not, if people say they say it… then they say it….*sheesh*…. no point arguing about it *logistically*.

  22. I think the question is more whether “laundry” needs an article with it. That is, “a laundry” or “the laundry” (not to be confused with Stross’s “The Laundry”) or if “laundry” by itself indicates a facility.

  23. There, that’s more like the discussion I wanted. 🙂

    I’d say that “laundry” does not NEED an article, as evidenced by its widespread use in this specific context without one and that everyone (or near enough) understands the meaning. If I were writing something that was a bit more formal, I would probably use the article to elevate the tone (pun intended). Writing an advertisement for the apartment complex I want to attract people to, it’d be “The complex features a state of the art coin-operated laundry on the third floor, complete with a comfortable seating area”.

  24. “Dude, relax yourself.”

    I’m not sure where you got the impression I wasn’t relaxed.

    Sure, “laundry” doesn’t NEED an article. No one said that they’re required to have an article – just that for some people (not me) it apparently sounds odd or confusing. It’s an interesting regional difference, but not one that the dictionary is particularly enlightening on.

    It’s true that most people will presumably understand it without the article, but that’s separate from whether it sounds weird to them. If I go into a deli and say “Can I have bagel,” I’ll likely be understood, but it will sound odd.

  25. Articles are sometimes regional (for large regions, sometimes). In the U.S., someone sufficiently ill will go to the hospital. In (most? all?) other English-speaking countries, they’d go to hospital. Here, it sounds normal to go to college, but somehow going to university sounds odd. Neither way is ungrammatical, but both are nonidiomatic, depending on where one is.

  26. For me, “laundry” without an article is generally used with the clothes that are being washed. So I would take laundry to the laundry. I understood what the comic meant, but it’s not a usage I would ever employ. But of course use can vary by person or region.

  27. WW, I got the impression you maybe thought I was trying to start a rumble to “prove I’m right” and smack down your observations. Not doing so. References to the dictionary were about usage patterns and history only. I do make my living writing and editing (you’d never know it by what I write here), so I am a bit of a stickler on a professional level, but at least 60% descriptivist in my personal life. I want everyone to feel free to talk about their observations of usage. We’re all mostly locked in and, I hope, enjoying the discussions on CIDU. Don’t want anyone, certainly not you, to feel attacked.

  28. Had to go to a public laundromat when we were first married as there was none in our apartment complex. After someone left their lipstick in the dryer and ruined a week’s worth of clothing, towels, and bedding (and we had/have basically 2 weeks worth) we bought a small washer and a small dryer for our apartment. (Don’t tell our landlord – they were prohibited as was the baby in the apartment over us.)

    The washer held about 12 shirts at a time – so I did many loads each week (as between we were washing 14 shirts alone a week). Basically the washer and dryer were always out and set up as I used them several days a week. The water intake would slide over the kitchen sink faucet (so no laundry and dishwashing at same time) and the outgo hose went onto/into the sink. The dryer shot the hot air out the front so in the summer the kitchen was VERY WARM. If we had company for dinner we stuck the washer in a corner of the kitchen and put a tablecloth over the dryer in the dining room and used it as a serving table.

    The two units moved to the house with us – always can use a backup for when the big ones break down – right? House washer died in a period that was particularly bad (we went through several of the ten plagues in a couple of weeks) could not go out to buy a new one – hooked up the small one – and – it was dead. The dryer still works and for a while we used it to heat whatever area of the garage workshop we were working in until we got heater units for it.

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