They're as self-centered as we are!

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 4 00:16:16 UTC 2009

At 12:43 AM +0000 11/4/09, Robin Hamilton wrote:
>>>A few thousand GHits for ["I|he|she|you|we knicked"]. Both in the
>>>sense of "cut slightly" ("I knicked my leg|scrotum while shaving") and
>>>"steal" ("We knicked a Tesco trolley to use as a barbeque").
>>I figure this spelling (esp. in the UK, and in particular for the
>>scrotum cite) may well be processed as a back-formation from
>>"knickers" (the standard locution for what we call 'underpants' and
>>'panties' on this side of the pond), although I have to concede that
>>the semantic shift requires some ingenuity.
>Thus the joke:
>        What's the difference between a fraud squad detective and an
>hysterical woman?
>        One puts twisters in the nick, and the other gets her knickers in a
>Robin Hamilton
Indeed, "get one's knickers in a twist" seems to be not an infrequent
allusion here, even when knickers (as such) don't otherwise surface.
A letter to the editor in the N. Y. Times Book Review by philosopher
Daniel Dennett a couple of weeks ago begins:

To the Editor:

Nicholas Wade chides Richard Dawkins in his review of "The Greatest
Show on Earth" (Oct. 11) for getting "his knickers in a twist" over
contemporary creationism, a worldwide campaign of disinformation on
which millions of dollars are being spent annually. What would it
take to get Nicholas Wade's knickers in a twist? The claim that
condoms don't prevent the spread of HIV? Or does religious faith
excuse any evil deed? If geologists had to confront a similar
propaganda campaign against plate tectonics, they would get a little
testy too, I imagine, and physicists might grow impatient if they had
to devote half their professional time and energy to fending off
claims that quantum mechanics is the work of the devil. [...]


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