drop trou

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu May 3 03:42:15 UTC 2007

"Trou" for trousers appears in the West Point yearbook _The Howitzer_ as early as 1911.

  The earliest evidence the HDAS files have for "drop trou," however, is as late as 1968. It has been pretty well known in student circles since then.

James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: James Harbeck
Subject: drop trou

I find with interest that "drop trou" (drop your trousers), which I
would have taken to have a British origin, only gets 222 Google hits
on .uk sites out of a total of 30,800 worldwide (and 228 for .au
sites). That doesn't mean it doesn't come from Britain, of course.
I'm trying to think of the best way of tracking down the origin of
this one. I just found it in a 1986 article in the New York Times
Magazine, so it's not as recent as all that -- but the other two NYT
hits were 1998 and 1999. A Factiva search of newspapers gives me a
citation from 1979 from the Toronto Globe and Mail. It's about an
AC/DC concert, describing Angus Young: "His stage outfit consists of
a typical English public school uniform complete to the funny little
cap and mandatory satchel. But by halfway through the set, most of
this has been discarded, with the precocious Angus even going so far
as to (to use the colloquial) drop trou from the centre of the stage
(a gesture I felt adequately summed up the evening's performance to
that point)." The next one is from 1985, a New York Times article
(now why didn't the NYT give me that one?) talking about Albert
Brooks. The 1986 NYT article comes next, and it's talking about frat
boys at the University of Virginia: "Brothers were likely to 'drop
trou' while standing and talking to another brother's date,
especially if it was the first time that girl had been 'brought up,'
especially if she was a freshman, especially if she was 'a nice
girl.'" So it seems as though it comes from a time in the US when the
term "trousers" was more common than it is now, and truncations had
not been so thoroughly supplanted by initialisms. But perhaps y'all
have other data?

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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