Why Do We Say – A Pair of Panties? What Exactly is it a Pair of?

Hi to everyone this lovely day! The weather is great in California—and I hope you can also say the same wherever you call home! I apologize for the extended absence—but I’ve been busy finishing-up (and publishing!) my first e-book. You can find a link to it on the tab above labeled “Vicki’s Bookshelf”—which will soon be hosting it’s own blog all about the writing life.

But—that’s not what this is about. While I was writing the book, I happened to use the phrase “pair of underwear”, and then couldn’t help but ask—“What is it a pair of, anyway?” It isn’t as if I’m putting on two of them.

Underwear overall is kind of a puzzler—clearly the name is pretty self-explanatory—but the fact is, your Mother is usually the only one who calls it underwear (as in—be sure you put on a pair of clean underwear—what if you end up at the hospital or something? Do you want everyone to know you have on dirty underwear?). Of course—that also begs the question—exactly how would they know that? Maybe it would have been better if Mom had emphasized the thorough use of toilet paper to avoid anyone knowing whether or not you had on clean underwear.  Something to think about.

But back to the general term—whether it’s “underwear” or the more popular “panties”, it’s still often referred to as a “pair”. Of course, it goes by other names as well—which aren’t linked with the term “pair” at all, like lingerie—which is basically the French word for underwear. If you have fancy underwear it’s lingerie, because whatever you say in French always sounds fancier. If it’s just the plain old kind—it’s “drawers”, apparently because they used to be drawn on (as in pulled up over the legs), and from there to pantalettes. Those are the long ,white, lace-trimmed original “leggings” females in general wore under those really heavy skirts and petticoats in the 1800’s.

I imagine it was a pretty short word-hop from pantalettes to panties—as the pantalettes got shorter to match the rising hemlines of the skirts so did the word for the piece of clothing underneath them. But guess what? This is where the term ”pair” came from! Apparently those pantalettes were actually just a pair of legs sewn together—and open at the bottom. My reaction to that today? Well—if you have to go potty and are forced to deal with all those skirts and petticoats, then I guess I can see the logic to that kind of design. On the other hand, imagine the women riding sidesaddle with one leg hooked around the saddle horn and the other dangling in the stirrup, with the breeze blowing up those skirts they use to wear. Ewww!

I wonder what the women back then would think of our panties? Bikini cut, full cut, hi-cut—or how about a thong? But then that probably would have puzzled a lot of them if you had mentioned a “thong”, since it was taken from the British word “thwong” which means a strip of leather.

Now there’s a mental picture for the women of the 19th century to dwell on. With that mental picture in their heads I would bet their next thought would be: “this is progress?”

… and that’s where this ends. There will be no blog on the origin of “boxers” or “tidy-whitey’s”, so everyone can relax!

Enjoy the beautiful weather—and we’ll talk again next week!-  Vicki

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An Everyday Hero, Just for Us..

Today is the 14th day of July. It’s Independence Day in France, it’s the day a peanut farmer from Georgia won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and it’s the day my father was born. Today is Dad’s birthday.

My Dad—or I should say our Dad, because he had five of us… three girls, two boys and a lot of responsibility. But when we were growing up in that big and busy household, we really weren’t aware of any of that. He was Dad. He went to work all week, came home every night, worked on the yard or worked overtime on the weekends, got up Monday morning and did it all again. As far as we knew, all the Dads did that. So—no big deal.

Dad wasn’t an astronaut, a movie star, a famous athlete or a steely-eyed mogul of a business empire. What identified Dad was a reasonably successful career, and head of a household of seven living in the suburbs. He took an annual family vacation, occasionally did the “guy” thing of wearing stripes and plaids together, and always thought he looked pretty good. Taken all together, he was probably pretty much an average kind of guy, and not the type you would generally think would be a standard bearer of some kind or a hero. At least, we didn’t when we were kids. Why would we? He was Dad to us, and all our friends had one.

But it’s funny how things change as you get older. Those flash-in-the-pan moments of stepping on the moon, catching the winning pass or winning that gold medal are certainly something to be admired, but we don’t generally sit around and contemplate all the work that went into it. It’s only that moment we all admire. As you climb up that ladder of years, you realize it isn’t the single moments of glory or brilliance that makes the world go round.
It’s that unrecognized, everyday hero who keeps us all going forward. It’s that guy—the one who gets up every day and goes to work, and then comes home and uses all his earnings to support a household full of people. It’s that guy—who takes his kid to baseball practice, shoots baskets in the backyard, shows up at the Father-Daughter Brownie dinner, and drives crappy old cars because he can only afford one nice one, and he thinks his wife and kids should be going around in that one, even though he probably spent more time in the car every day than we did.

He’s that guy. Maybe you don’t know that guy, but we all do. That was our Dad.

I know no one is perfect, and neither was our Dad. And we’re all certainly proof of that genetic link, because none of us are perfect either. But who needs perfect when you have “present and responsible”. Dad was there. He came home every night. He went to work every day. He didn’t spend his money on clothes, flashy cars and personal entertainment. He spent it on us—including college educations for five kids. He didn’t complain about it, he didn’t refuse to do it—he considered it all part of the deal of having a family.

That’s what our Dad was. An everyday hero. I hope he knows how hard we all try to live up to that. I hope he knows how proud we are he set that bar so high. I hope he knows we miss him.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

And PS:  Also sending up a happy birthday wish to our Grandfather Leslie as well– Dad’s Father-in-Law.. who had 5 kids of his own that he raised during the Great Depression.. another everyday hero to our Mom, her brother and both her sisters.


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