A recent conversation with my two year old daughter.
D: my pants are called Nicola.
D: (who hates it when I don’t understand exactly what she is talking about.) My pants are called NICOLA!
Me: No darling, Ben’s mum is called Nicola.
D: (now infuriated at my slovenly grasp of the English language) NO, MY PANTS ARE CALLED NICOLA!
Me: (pausing to figure out this latest piece of two year old logic) Do you mean, your pants are called knickers?
Me: Of course. Silly me, you make perfect sense, I should have no difficulty translating your malapropisms and toddlerisms.
But, knickers? I can only assume this is a word she’s picked up at nursery, because in our house they’re pants. Hers, mine, her brother’s and Unhusband’s (but we won’t go there.) I’ve never felt the need to use different terminology for male and female underwear. Much as I love words, there are some pieces of vocabulary that make me want to heave and knickers is one of them. In case you’re wondering, I also have a particular aversion to moist (vile) scrummy (oh, please) blouse (it’s a shirt) And my pet hate: twinkle (when used outside the nursery rhyme) – but I won’t go on about that again.
I realise to thousands, possibly millions of people, knickers is about as normal as saying T-shirt, or toothbrush. But for me, it conjures up images of big, billowy, lacy things, blowing on the line; of elderly aunts, and condescending males who uses phrases like: don’t get your knickers in a twist … keep your knickers on … the same males who talk about big girls’ blouses.
Pants on the other hand are affirming, down-to-earth, impartial. They cover a multitude of possibilities (and arses) and do away with complicated technicalities like G-strings, garters, bikinis, briefs, low rise shorts and thongs – which are just confusing if you’re an Australian, and pants on feet aren’t a good look.
The great thing about pants, is not only do they keep your nethers warm, they can also be used as an adjective – like for example when bollocks isn’t quite appropriate. This weather is pants, work is pants, this book is pants …. Or just: pants!
Forget knickers, I’m sticking to pants. Or maybe to keep my daughter happy, I should start calling them Nicola. Would that make the boy version Nicolas?
What do you call them? Do any words make you want to heave?