Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do we call it a ‘pair’ of panties?” Good question. (Wait. Didn’t we cover this already? Oh well, it beats answering questions about the secret numeric code behind women’s clothing that initially keeps men from understanding just how fat some cows on the internet really are, mmmkay?)
In a now defunct series yours truly once wrote elsewhere, your rascally reporter pondered over why we call it a “pair” of panties. After all, you go to see your girlfriend and you retire to her boudoir. She “slips into something more comfortable” basically relieving herself of everything but her underpants. One piece of clothing remains between you and an enjoyable evening.
Why do we say that one item she is wearing a “pair of panties”? Is it because it has a pair of leg holes?
Is it called a “pair of panties” because of the number of buttcheeks it contains when worn? If you’re playing strip poker with a gal does she then have to lose twice before she takes them off?
Some of us avoid the issue by dating ladies who “goes commando”. (There’s one for a future column. Why do we say someone who doesn’t wear undies is going commando? Is the pantyless chick gonna rub shoe polish on her face, belly-crawl across the floor and attack you from behind?)
Seriously, it must be related to the phrase “pair of pants”, right? Looks like it’s time to bring in our guest speaker, Cecil Adams, online columnist and researcher.
He notes that “even though panties aren’t really a pair of anything, having (usually) no legs” we still refer to them as a “pair”. He confirms that this is indeed “an extension of the expression, ‘pair of pants’.”
Adams adds that there’s “a class of objects that are thought to consist of two independent but connected parts, usually identical or at least similar to each other. In addition to pants and trousers, there are eyeglasses, scissors, tweezers, shears, pliers, and so on.”
He continues: “The terms for these objects are always plural in form, and they are usually referred to as ‘a pair of . . . ‘. This usage goes back to at least 1297 AD, when we have the expression ‘a peire of hosen’.” He concludes: “The implication is that the two parts are separable in some sense,”
In a way that makes sense. You need something to cover your “hairy, scarey down therey” in the front but you also need a piece of cloth to cover your butt too.
Why do we call it a ‘pair’ of panties? Now you know.
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