Americans don’t wear knickers. They just have underwear. And they wear their pants over their underwear, which kind of makes sense. Except that I am British. So underwear, knickers, and pants are all essentially the same thing. Although having said that, knickers are normally female in the
, whereas underwear and pants can be for either sex. UK
Yes, I am getting my knickers in a twist over the differences between American and British English again!
British pants were not always underpants. When I was a child the word “pants” was normally used to refer to any sort of long trousers, the same way that the Americans use the word. It didn’t matter what they were made of, denim, tweed, or cotton, as long as they started at your waist and covered your ankles, they were pants. Then, during the 1990s, something rather strange happened. Suddenly British people started using the word “pants” to mean underpants. If you used the word in the old sense, to mean any type of long trousers, people would snigger at you, as if you were committing some enormous “faux pas”, when all you were actually doing was using the same word that everyone had always used in the past.
My brother lived in
during the 90s and returned home to Germany to find that people were giggling when he talked about his pants. I have the opposite problem to my brother. I have to keep reminding myself that when Americans refer to their pants, they are not discussing their knickers. Britain
I guess this sort of thing has happened before. I mean, I remember my grandmother referring to my footwear as “stockings” instead of “socks” when I was a child. I have no idea when the sock/stocking change happened but it clearly took place during my grandmother’s lifetime, but before mine.
As Americans don’t use the word, “knickers”, I’ll leave you with some of its uses, other than meaning an item of underwear.
1. “Knickers!” exclaimed can mean “Rubbish!” or “Nonsense!”
2. It can also mean, “Oh sod it!” and you can say “Knickers to that!” when you are fed up with continuing something.
3. The phrase: “Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” means don’t get unduly stressed out.