Knickers (was: They're as self-centered as we are!)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 4 14:05:08 UTC 2009

At 2:47 PM +0000 11/4/09, Damien Hall wrote:
>Thus Larry:
>>I figure this spelling [...] 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)
>Just a note on a branching topic: _knickers_ is the standard BrE locution
>only for (women's) 'panties', not for (men's) 'underpants'.
Good point.  The "his knickers" hits (175K) mostly involve getting
his knickers in a twist or a knot, with (presumably) metaphoric
transfer of the kind attested in the NYT book review and letters
(with the additional insult typically invoked by reference to males
with female-appropriate terms).  There are in the umliterature and
some of the other google hits for "his knickers" a number of literal
"knickers" = 'underpants' (for which I'm led to believe the standard
British locution is "pants", which no doubt leads to some robust
dialect clashes with U.S. "pants" = 'trousers'), but the number
shrinks in comparison to those for "her knickers" = 'her panties'.
Some, but not many, hits on "his knickers" refer to the outermore
garment, a.k.a. knickerbockers.


The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list