Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Mar 12 16:35:38 UTC 2006

At 11:47 PM -0500 3/11/06, Wilson Gray wrote:
>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.
This is an echt eggcorn (echtcorn?) if I've ever seen one, and
evidently original with Wilson's friend (although perhaps invented by
others independently).  This may involve a two-stage process along
the usual route of loss of transparency + subsequent invention of new
transparency.  I see from googling that the respelling of
"pantywaist" as "pantiewaste" is *not* novel; there are a couple
dozen instances, but all of them seem to retain the original meaning
(essentially that of 'wimp', mutatis mutandis).  But once the term
has been reconfigured to involve pantie(s) (as adult female
undergarments) and (a) waste, Wilson's friend's reanalysis of the
meaning is just the inevitable final step, essentially resulting in a
handy cousin of Elaine's "spongeworthy".


The American Dialect Society -

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