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

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Nov 4 18:03:27 UTC 2009

On Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 9:05 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> 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'),

To quote Samuel Butler:

"Thou callest trousers 'pants', whereas I call them 'trousers',
Therefore thou art in hell-fire and may the Lord pity thee!"


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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