second thoughts on Nkinis

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 21 21:18:54 UTC 2004

At 3:43 PM -0500 12/21/04, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Tue, 21 Dec 2004 15:07:41 -0500, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>I just had the bright idea of looking in the OED, where there is an
>>entry on "monokini" that provides this etymology:
>>[< French monokini (1946: see below) < mono- MONO- + -kini (in bikini
>>BIKINI n.), as though bikini were a formation in bi- BI-2. Cf.
>>    French monokini and bikini were both app. coined by Louis Reard and
>>patented by him in 1946: see Femmes d'Aujourd'hui (1972) 12 July.]
>>I'd always thought "bikini" was around first and "monokini" was a
>>cute invention that came later, through (as I said earlier) a
>>disingenuous pretend folk-etymology.
>In his "On Language" column of July 11, 1999, Safire attributed the
>"monokini" to a later designer:
>In 1946, after the explosion of an atomic bomb at the Bikini Atoll in the
>Marshall Islands became synonymous with a great blast, the French lingerie
>manufacturer Louis Reard introduced a skimpy two-piece suit for swimming
>or sunbathing that he called the bikini. Eighteen long years of dreary
>skin coverage passed before the Austrian designer Rudi Gernreich
>interpreted the bi in bikini as "two" and introduced the monokini -- one
>bottom, no top.

Ah, that's probably what I was thinking of.  Note also that IIRC
Gernreich's design was NOT simply a topless bikini, which would not
really have necessitated a designer.  It was a molded suit for women
with straps that left the breasts bare.  So there are in fact at
least two versions of the monokini:  the Gernreich version and the
simple bikini bottom; whether removing one's bikini top turns the
suit into a monokini depends on which version one has in mind.

>It's notable that there are no cites for "monokini" before 1964.  Perhaps
>Reard had the foresight to patent the "monokini" back in 1946, but it took
>until 1964 for societal trends to catch up with his bold vision.

Well, in our society, anyway.


More information about the Ads-l mailing list