A Wyoming wordsmith thought he’d seen it all until the University of Wyoming announced a plan to build vomitories at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
“Having been to UW games since 1967 – and seen it all there – I assumed the writer was jokingly referring to restrooms and what some fans do at the game,” Kevin Bohnenblust, a longtime communications expert who lives outside Cheyenne, joked Wednesday in a Facebook post.
Bohnenblust told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that he’d been casually scrolling through a KGAB news story about UW’s plan to update the UW football stadium when the incongruous architectural term caught his eye.
“Turns out that ‘vomitory’ is a correct word for a passage ‘where masses of people are disgorged,’” Bohnenblust said, adding, “That by itself sounds gross.”
Bohnenblust noted that for years, people spread rumors about the “vomitoria” of ancient Rome being areas used to barf out food so the Romans could continue eating. But that’s a myth, he said.
History.com agrees, noting that the zones did exist, but they were for “vomiting” — or expelling — people, not venison sacrificed to the gods.
The vomitoria at the Colosseum in Rome were so efficiently designed, the site says, they could spew 50,000 people into the arena in just 15 minutes.
Architect On Bodily Functions
Even though he’s designed several multimillion-dollar buildings and was the architect of record on UW’s Gateway Building, State Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, said he didn’t usually reference vomitories in his designs.
Now retired, Pappas said he might call the zones exit corridors instead, which only lands him back in the belly of Latin terms for bodily actions.
“Corridor” comes from the Latin word for “run.”
The English word “spew,” meanwhile, translates to the Latin verb “vomĕre,” which is almost elegant-sounding enough to shed its pungent connotations.
“To vomit is to expel,” said Pappas. “So, they weren’t thinking of vomit in terms of how we were thinking of vomit, the actual substance we throw up.”
Pappas noted that vomitories are specific to arenas —sports stadiums, theaters — places that puke out humans quickly.
But the exits are just called exits in places like stores and hospitals that merely dribble, hock or drool humans out.
There are many architectural terms that sound unfamiliar to laymen, said Pappas, but offhand he couldn’t think of any quite as startling.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.