trouser pants

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 25 19:07:35 UTC 2005

"Trouser pants" is a ruralism. The point is that not only is
Granddad's sense of style passe, but, even when it was a la mode, it
was nevertheless unhip as a consequence of its being country and
down-home in origin. "Ascot" implies that Granddad is trine tuh front,
since it's not likely that he knows what an ascot is, if he thinks
that any kids need or would wear
ascots as part of their school clothing. The use of "everyone" as
opposed to "both of y'all"/"bofe uh y'all" also implies that the old
dude is gettin' beside himself, trina be all sididdy.

-Wilson Gray

On 8/25/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU>
> Subject:      trouser pants
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> In today's "Boondocks", Granddad goes shopping with the kids...
> -----
> Granddad: Boys, I'm tired of you dressin' like hooligans. So I'm pickin'
> out all your new school clothes.
> Huey: That's okay, Granddad. Really. We can pick out our own clothes.
> Granddad: Nonsense! Your granddaddy got great taste! Ascots and trouser
> pants for everyone!
> -----
> I take it "trouser pants" is supposed to be a fuddy-duddyism. But is it
> synonymous with "trousers" (in the US sense)? "Trouser(s)" is not part of
> my active vocabulary, but Wikipedia provides this helpful gloss:
> -----
> In North American English, _pants_ is the general category term, and
> _trousers_ refers specifically to tailored garments with a waistband and
> (usually) belt-loops and a fly-front. Informal elastic-waist knitted
> garments would never be called _trousers_ in America.
> In British English, _trousers_ is the general category term, and _pants_
> refers to underwear (in America, called _underpants_ or _panties_ to
> distinguish them from other pants).
> -----
> So I'm assuming that "trouser pants" is simply a hyponymic compound, where
> the hypernym "pants" is qualified by the hyponym "trouser(s)", thus
> forming a contrast to non-trouser pants (which Huey and Riley are
> presumably wearing). Or is there a semantic nuance I'm missing?
> (As for the trans-Atlantic trousers/pants distinction, Mencken quotes
> Samuel Butler's memorable pronouncement in his "Psalm to Montreal": "Thou
> callest trousers _pants_, whereas I call them _trousers_; therefore thou
> art in hell-fire and may the Lord pity thee!")
> --Ben Zimmer

-Wilson Gray

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