Trouser(s) (was: these underwear)

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Nov 18 14:55:20 UTC 2005

Wilson said:

> "Pant" always seems to be the form of choice when referring to trousers for
>  women. It goes back to the '60's, at least.

I remember being struck by something similar when I was filling in a form about
my clothing measurements to be fitted for a job uniform for Buckingham Palace:
the form talked about 'the length of the trouser', and the context made it clear
that what was being referred to was the generic inside-leg length (so it could
have been referring to just one of the legs, since both would be the same).  I
suppose the singular *trouser* for one leg is the logical companion of *a pair
of trousers*, but I don't know whether *trousers* < *trouser* or *vice versa*
by back-formation.

The form could also have been a conscious archaising one, used on purpose by the
no doubt upper-class tailor to promote a sense of being fit to serve the upper
class, perceived of course as using a higher-class variety of language, which
some might think would include archaisms not to be used elsewhere.  That's why
the 'Buckingham Palace' information is relevant - on ADS-L we don't name-drop
for the sake of it!

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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