I got a very interesting question submitted today: why do people call water fountains bubblers specifically in parts of Wisconsin the Massachusetts/Rhode Island area, and Australia? Almost everywhere else, it's either a drinking fountain or a water fountain, so why those three places? To answer that, we'll have to look at the (Wisconsin-based) Kohler Company, which invented the water fountain in the early 1900s. They called this a Bubbler, trademarked it, and marketed it so aggressively that use of that word became more ubiquitous than Kleenex in place of tissue (which is also a trademark, of course). Nobody's quite sure why the greater Boston and New South Wales regions picked it, but most logically that is where the word spread with the thing, instead of people just keeping an archaic term for something that spews water on it. There's an excellent graphic in Josh Katz's book Speaking American on this if anybody is interested.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.