Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 12 04:47:41 UTC 2006

A while ago, a friend of mine spoke somewhat as follows:

"I don't what made that jerk think that I would possibly want
to sleep with him. That would have been a total [pAntiweist]!"

I asked her how that last word was spelled. She replied:

"P-A-N-T-I-E W-A-S-T-E."

I asked her what that meant. She replied that it meant that said
jerk wasn't worth the effort involved in taking off one's undies.

After a bit more conversation, it became clear that what she
had in mind was "pantywaist," misconstrued and respelled to fit
that misconstruction.

For those too young to have worn a pantywaist, it was clothing
for (male) toddlers. It consisted of a pair of short pants - the panties -
worn over one's diaper and buttoned along its top edge to the bottom edge
of a Peter Pan-collared shirt -  the waist - that itself buttoned up
the front.

>From its use as clothing for babies comes its former(?) pejorative use as
an insult for an adult male.

FWIW, my Texas grandmother also used "waist" as the name for what we
today would call a "T-shirt" and as a term for a certain kind of blouse.

-Wilson Gray

The American Dialect Society -

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