Sunday, August 26, 2007

Minimal pairs of another sort

This post might be a silly excuse to post a picture from a Victoria's Secret promotion.

For some reason the fashion industry likes to turn plurals into singulars. Many a runway show announcer has called attention to "a pleated pant."

Over on this JCPenney page the heading uses singular "pant" tho the individually men's Dockers® are listed as "pants" while the women's Cabin Creek® item is listed as a "pant". But I can't find a pattern because on this page, five of the women's Dockers® take the plural and one (the Sydney pant) takes the singular.

This CBS Sports Store page uses the singular for every pair of pants on the page.

In Spanish it's possible to use both the singular and plural as well. Either pantalón or pantalónes. Buffy tells me there's a lyric out there "llevaba camisa oscura y pantalón claro" in a song titled "Desapariciones" by Maná. And of course there is an episode of the French television series Le Mythomane (The Pathological Liar) titled "Un pantalon tout neuf" (A Very New Pant).

And for the stage directions of The Taming of the Shrew to call Gremio "a pair of pantaloons" would just be silly. The singular form predates the plural form as it is a shortened form of pantaloon a word that rose from San Pantaleone and settled into use as both a type of character in Italian comedies and the typical costume. The OED mentions "the Venetian character Pantaloon" dating from 1561 or sooner.

The etymology has nothing to do with the outfit. It goes back to a combination of Gr pantos (gen pan, universal, in combinative use all, or every); and leōn, lion.

It probably picked up the plural use because of the obvious bifurcate construction of the suit.

So is the fashion and garment industry preserving an original use or has it introduced a form that only happens to coincide with an earlier form? (This is one of my favorite issues in language use/change and one which will get a lot of attention in my dissertation).

Well there is evidence that the fashion industry just likes to call things by the singular. Buffy has received in the mail about 7 postcards from her favourite outfitter: Victoria's Secret. The offer sounds like a lame giveaway of only one little sandal. But she went anyway to claim her gift and sure enough--they gave her one for each foot.

Pink Flip Flop

What kind of picture did you expect I would post?

1 comment:

  1. For a moment I thought your blog had turned into a soft-porn site. And when I was a kid, we called these thongs. But I guess a picture of a thong from VS would look very different.


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