trou (1970)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 26 16:20:42 UTC 2006

I agree with The G WRT the dating. I recall it as being a kind of mild
insult implying that the person spoken to or spoken of was gay for
pay, e.g.

Give me twenty bucks for my time and the gas and I'll drive you guys over there.

Shit! For that kind of money, you ought to just drop trou for us,
right here, and save the gas!


On 12/26/06, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: trou (1970)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>     I can say with certainty that the phrase was used already at Dartmouth College no later than the spring of 1960.  I was in my sophomore year (1959-1960), when a bizarre incident occurred involving two or possibly three Dartmouth students: They had traveled to another college (it was probably a women's college) and dropped their trousers in front of a women's dormitory.  I'm not sure what the purpose of this exercise was, but it got them into trouble with both the local police and the Dartmouth administration.
>     Perhaps several months before this incident there had been another incident (I forget just what it was), and the very popular dean (IIRC, his name was Thaddeus Seymour) called a meeting of the entire freshman class to provide us some fatherly and administrative advice as to what was appropriate behavior and what could happen administratively if we violated those sage rules.  His talk to us was a highlight of the year.
>     Now, with the trousers-dropping incident having occurred, another meeting was called.  I'm not sure who called it, but the person who addressed us was one of the student leaders, and this meeting was but a pale imitation of the boffo performance put on earlier by the dean.  In any case, I clearly recall the student leader starting off the meeting by saying what everyone already knew, viz, that several Dartmouth students had gone to such-and-such college and "dropped trou."  He absolutely, positively used that expression.  This could have been the fall of 1959, but more likely it was the spring of 1960.
> Gerald Cohen
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Benjamin Zimmer
> Sent: Mon 12/25/2006 11:45 PM
> Subject: Re: trou (1970)
> On 12/26/06, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> > The latest OED draft entry for "trou" as a clipped form of "trousers"
> > identifies it as a New Zealandism, with a first cite of 1971. And the
> > phrase "drop trou" = 'pull down one's pants' is identified as "orig.
> > and chiefly U.S." with a first cite of 1976.
> Here's an antedating for "drop trou", in an article quoting a streaker
> at the Naval Academy:
> 1974 _Evening Capital_ (Annapolis, Md.) 16 mar. 1/5 I just 'dropped
> trou' (took off his clothes) at Smoke Hall and ran right past the
> Office of the Day, through the mess hall and out the other end.
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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