Armchair Linguist

An amateur linguist drinks strong coffee and makes interesting observations about language from the comfort of his armchair.

Location: United Kingdom

Saturday, July 10, 2004


I am baffled by this one. Somehow I (Canadian-born) managed to get into my twenties in England without ever realizing the difference in meaning between the NAmEng and the EngEng pants. It wasn't until I was in college at the age of about 21 that I discovered that pants, to an English person, refers almost exclusively to underwear.

How did this elementary semantic distinction escape me for over fifteen years? When I made the discovery, I had fifteen years of conversations to go through in my head, wondering how many times I had embarrassed myself by talking about pants when I meant "trousers".

Luckily, there is a very mild expletive on hand that has gained in popularity over about the last five years in Britain, and it sums up perfectly my frustration with this whole fiasco: Pants!


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