Bubblers come in many shapes and sizes…and perform more than one function.
Pronounced, “Bub-LA,” there are the indoor and outdoor varieties,
along with human and non-human varieties. Yep, they make them for cats, dogs and birds now.
It would only seem logical that the practical New Englander’s name for the drinking fountain, would be “bubbler,” mimicking the way the water looks when it spurts out of the fountain. But why the use of the word “stuck” here, and not elsewhere is one of New Hampshire’s mysteries. Strangely the Wikipedia site states the word is used in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin but does not include New Hampshire. Apparently some folks in New South Wales, Australia also use the term the same way we do.
A small waterworks company created the first ‘bubbler’ in 1888 in Kohler, Wisconsin. Yep, you guessed it, that company was the forerunner of the famous Kohler company of today. They actually called their first product, a “Bubbler,” and patented the name so other drinking fountain makers would have to use other ones (they used “Gurgler” and “Gusher” but they weren’t as catchy apparently). Kohler, by the way is still making drinking fountains.
Ah, now I understand why a Wisconsin-based information web site calls themselves “The Bubbler.”
In addition to New England use, I found a “Benson Bubbler” drinking fountain in Portland Oregon, installed by a Norwegian-born Simon Benson, in his temperance quest to encourage water drinking rather than beer.
Apparently a “Bubbler” is also a term for a scientific device.
It seems Wisconsinites do too, and someone nicely borrowed some of my own words!
[updated November 2013]