Monday, November 05, 2007

What your trousers say about you (behind your back)

I don't know much about clothes and clothes don't know much about me. (Then again, I'm that stupid that I often find nudity ambiguous.) But after a recent conversation, I've started to notice something strange: the amount of clothes with oddly descriptive names, with an emphasis on the odd.

Now, don't go on at me, please: it's not just things like 'underwear' (that you wear under other clothes), or 'dresses', (so called because you dress in them). There's a whole class of other items of clothing with stranger names.

Witness, for instance, the 'jumper': a type of dress that you jump up and down in, like a trampoline. Also: 'sweaters', which are actually items of clothing that perspire whenever you walk into the room. 'Saucy Underwear' are underpants with a wide variety of chutneys and mayonaisses in them; 'pantaloons', on the other hand, are pants with an idiot in either trouser leg. (And 'Pom Poms', obviously, are a pair of British citizens who sit on your head.)

There are 'rings': jewellery that you put on your fingers that perform phone calls. There are 'pants' - things that you put on your legs that make a noise like a dog. 'Singlets', obviously, are what you wear when you don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend to pair up with; and 'doublets' are what you put on when you find one. 'T-shirts' - as my father's recent missive undoubtedly indicates - are actually 'tea shirts', clothes that you wear, either when drinking ceylon tea or eating dinner.

Some types of clothes appear to perform useful household functions. There are 'sweeping necklines', which are necklines on your dress that sweep up the dust from the corners of the room with a broom and deposit it in the bin; and there are 'plunging necklines', which are necklines that take to the sink or the toilet with a plunger in order to clean the pipes out. Clearly, 'knickers' are lacy underwear that thieves put on before going out to steal rare diamonds from the museum. They don't wear anything else except, perhaps, 'sneakers', to facilitate their sneaking. Private investigators would wear a 'watch' frequently, since not only would it tell the time, but it would keep an eye on their suspects as well. 'Holey socks' - or, to put it more accurately, 'holy socks' - on the other hand, are only worn on Sundays, and the wearing of them makes one closer to the Holy Lord.

It's pretty obvious from all these names that clothes have plenty of hitherto undiscovered social purposes and powers, and that if only we donned our sweeping necklines when doing housework, or our saucy underwear when dining, then things would go fine. You wouldn't want to get confused, though. After putting on their knickers (to knick things), thieves would have to be careful not to put on a pair of 'slippers' on their feet (since they would be sure to slip up). 'Saucy underwear' would clearly be fine at a dinner party, but would be rather more difficult to use in the bedroom when making love. And it's unclear when your 'pantaloons' - your twin pair of idiots in either trouser leg - would be socially useful. (Perhaps never).

However, it's clear that a plumber can't go far wrong in wearing a 'plunging neckline', just as a cleaner would never go wrong in wearing a 'sweeping neckline'. It's all a matter of context.

So please don't get shirty with me and sock me in the face - I'm just reporting the facts!


Dan said...

How do you explain the fact that rings existed far before phones?

TimT said...

I don't. Just because other readers have no idea what I'm talking about doesn't mean I do...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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