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

Seán Fitzpatrick grendel.jjf at VERIZON.NET
Fri Nov 6 18:19:12 UTC 2009

How old is the “pants”=”underpants” usage?

Assuming it is WWI and before, it would give more immediacy and cogency to
“get into her pants” from a time when women didn’t wear trousers as
regularly as they do nowadays.



Seán Fitzpatrick

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?
I blame Global Warming.

-----Original Message-----
From: Damien Hall [mailto:djh514 at YORK.AC.UK] 
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 5:36 AM
Subject: Knickers (was: They're as self-centered as we are!)


Larry said:


>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).


Yes, indeed, men can get their knickers in a twist. For me, now, that idiom

is semantically bleached, so it doesn't occur to me if I ever hear it that

_knickers_ is actually a female-associated term (though of course I can't

speak directly for other speakers of BrE). Rather, to me, anyone who's

accused of getting their knickers in a twist is being accused of being

childish about something and making more of a fuss than it deserves. It

seems therefore equally insulting to men and to women by now (which is to

say, really more patronising than insulting).


>"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')


Yes; I should have put brackets around the _under_ morpheme. And, yes, that

does lead to some very (um-)robust confusions in dialect clashes. Since I

am married to an American and share my office with a different (but still

female) one, I have learned to avoid them for the most part, but people who

are less experienced have not been so fortunate in my direct experience ...


Thus Ben:


>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!"




Couldn't have put it better myself ...





Damien Hall


University of York

Department of Language and Linguistic Science



YO10 5DD



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