“Knickers”

There must be something about American movie stars and British lingo. We just witnessed Mark Wahlberg going all NOOB-y. Now Anna Kendrick is quoted in GQ magazine about the horror of being approached for an autograph while shopping for underwear:

“There’s something deeply embarrassing about being approached when you’re holding knickers. And it’s happened TWICE!”

It’s enough to put your you-know-what in a twist.

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9 responses to ““Knickers”

  1. It’s just classier when rendered as a Britishism, innit?

  2. “Don’t get your knickers in a knot” is an oft-said phrase by Irishwomen in Boston. Heard it all the time growing up and of course say it myself quite often as I’ve aged and seem to be turning into Nanny! ;)

  3. Why do I always detect a hint of gentle haughty remonstration with Ben and his comments? For example “… American movie stars and British lingo.” has the sound of a nun disparaging my language as a child when I would use some appalling americanism. Or avail myself of their “lingo”. And, of course, rightfully so! She would know, having been immersed in it being brought up in America and only relocating to the UK after she’d taken her vows. I wonder what those vows included? To never suffer the word “ain’t” in a conversation springs to mind as one likely suspect evidenced by the rap across my knuckles upon its utterance by a six year-old me.

  4. According to online sources, “knickers” appears to be a NOOB, but barely. Google’s NGRAM finds it first in British English in the mid-1870s, in U.S. English a decade later. “Knickers” is said to be short for “knickerbockers” (originally, descendants of the Dutch settlers of New York). In clothing, knickerbockers were a type of men’s sports pants in the U.S., while “knickers” seems to refer more often to a type of women’s underwear in the U.K. Another derivation of the original “Knickerbocker” (now referring to any modern day New Yorker) would be the NBA’s New York Knickerbockers (better known as “The Knicks”).

    But getting back to NGRAM, U.S. usage of “knickers” appears to have hit what statisticians call a “local maximum” in the late 1920s and continuing through the early 1930s, and similarly in the U.K. in the early to mid-1930s. The term started a new rise in popularity toward the latter mid-twentieth century on both sides of the Atlantic, and has been generally rising ever since, but never so much as in the U.K., where it experienced a steep ascent in the current millenium. In short, besides its early origin in British English, it has always been more popular in the U.K. than in the U.S. My question then is, “Is popularity a factor in a term’s NOOB status as well as origin?”

    • Memories of scooping up a knickerbocker glory on a hot, summer afternoon by the seaside – the only pants being those of delight.

  5. ‘Knicker’ is also slang for pounds sterling (‘it cost fifty knicker’), never plural. This is perhaps a little out of date now, and probably cockney speech, though I don’t know if it’s rhyming slang or not.

    • Nicker as in money is nothing to do with knickers as in underwear.
      A nicker is also one who nicks (steals).
      From OED
      Brit. slang.
      Plural unchanged, -s. [Origin unknown.
      Perhaps originally Horse Racing slang.]
      One pound sterling; a sovereign (obs.).
      1871 H. J. BYRON Cyril’s Success (new ed.) III. 45, I shall only be too delighted… That’s a nicker for Treherne.
      1910 Sessions Papers 1 June 128, I suppose this has cost you a couple of ‘nickers’.
      1960 D. LESSING In Pursuit of Eng. ii. 66 It’s a little matter. A hundred nicker. And it’d double itself in a year.
      2000 J. CAUGHIE Television Drama iv. 116 Don’t go far when you’re used to a hundred nicker in yer pocket.
      The concept nicker as one who steals is given by the OED as a separate definition not related to the money one. By the way, ‘quid’ is older (first recorded use 1661), again, from the OED:
      colloq. (chiefly Brit., Austral., and N.Z.).

  6. And on old joke from my childhood:

    Knock, knock

    Who’s there?

    Nicholas.

    Nicholas who?

    Knickerless lasses shouldn’t climb trees.

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