I did some considerable research about the bubbler question. It’s called a bubbler because that’s what it’s called. A bubbler is that part of a public drinking fountain that elevates the water so as to prevent one’s lips from coming into direct contact with the fountain and thus prevents cross-contamination backwash and the sharing of germs. This device may also include an appreciable mouth guard to that same effect.
Over morning coffee I got to thinking about bubblers and how a bubbler is not the whole, but a part of the whole. I thought: “There’s a word for that” – but I couldn’t remember the exact term.
Throughout the day I subconsciously worked on the problem and finally remembered the term but forgot what it applied to. In the course of trying to remember the exact term (amid constant interruptions) I completely lost sight of the bubbler. Just before going to bed I finally consciously put the two words together. “Bubbler” is a highly localized figure of speech or literary device, a synecdoche, a part for the whole.
The term “bubbler” is linguistically a regional synecdoche for a public drinking fountain.
The terms “bubbler”, “water fountain”, and “drinking fountain” are used interchangeably and mean essentially the same thing.
While “drinking fountain” references the whole mechanism, the “bubbler” is a specific part of the whole.
A synecdoche (sih-NECK-duh-KEY) is a figure of speech or literary device substituting a part for the whole or the whole for a part, – e.g., asking a woman’s father for her ‘hand’ in marriage; a new set of ‘wheels’ for an automobile; ‘crown’ for a monarchical government; putting a ‘roof’ over your head; a hired gun; a ‘church’ may refer to a building or the congregants inside, etc.
The term “bubbler” may thus be construed as a localized synecdoche – a part for the whole.
The term Bubbler, n., a synecdoche of a public water fountain; actually names a specific part (the bubbler) for the whole assembly (water fountain).
As to the etymology and origin of the term; some hold it was a cutesy misnomer spontaneously invented by a child; but the device must have existed (and already been named) prior to the child first seeing it. It seems most likely to have been called a bubbler by it’s inventor.
COPY and PASTE for future reference.