Sunday, April 15, 2012

Those Pesky Esses



C. Neuroticus Absolutus


(Pant Rant*)

You’ve been there, in the men’s department in a national chain store when a clerk opines, “This is a nice pant, sir.”

Augggh! I fight the urge to heave. My teeth gnash, scrubbing off another layer of enamel and my eyes pop out far enough to slam against the lenses of my glasses. I want to scream, but my wife would probably bash my head in with her pocket tome (it’s far too big to be a pocketbook). I’d choke the clerk like a chicken, but I can’t be sure the security camera behind that upside down iridescent dome in the ceiling isn’t looking at me. So, I bite my tongue, swallow hard, count to ten and forgive the old man. It’s obvious he can’t help talking like that—he has a New Yoik accent. Damn Yankee!

In English, we generally give special recognition to the anatomical parts of our body that appear in pairs. This is also true for their related accoutrements. Feet, arms, legs, eyes, breasts, balls, etcetera—English weds them as plural pairs or sets. A pair of shoes, a pair of socks/stockings, a pair of glasses, a set of balls, a pair of legs, a (great) set of boobs, a pair of gloves, a pair of pants to mention a few of the most common. Note that the plural forms by the addition of “s” to each of the aforementioned words (except feet, which is the plural of foot). Foot gets additional attention—as do other numerical quantifiers—when used in measurements; e.g., “He’s 6-feet tall,” and “It’s only 12-miles long.” Many are confused, including lyricists: “Six-foot-two, eyes of blue…” In the American south, “Only 12-mile to go,” is often heard. Our quandary with the ubiquitous “s” is transferred to an array of measurements such as pound, dollar, and others like rapper 50 Cent. The plural “s” problem is easily transferred to the possessive case of nouns; e.g., “give me a nickel worth of licorice” instead of “a nickel’s worth.”

Back to my frustration with pant. Here are a few synonyms.
Pantaloons (Pants is the abbreviation for this word.)
Knickers (What? No singular form? Egad!)
Breeches (From breech: the buttocks, rump; the lower part of the torso.)
Britches (Is there even a singular form for britches? Britch? No, no singular form.)
Drawers (No singular form meaning garment with openings for the legs)
Capris (Short for Capri pants)
Pedal pushers
Swim trunks
Skivvies (General military use for underpants; not used when going commando.)
Panty hose (from hosiery; stockings, leggings, nylons)
Long johns
Chaps (Only half a pant, perhaps, but they cover the legs.)

Notice that all these words are related to legs, of which we are generally born with two. A shirt, undershirt, blouse, tube-top, halter, jacket, leotard, coat, et al are not related to our arms, but to the trunk, the torso of the body. When adorning our arms we speak of sleeves. By this definition, the garments jock/jockstrap and brassiere are apparently related to the trunk of our body. No matter the size, a singular noun describes the garments that cover both sets of these appendages. As for glasses, the Greeks screwed up this concept with monocle.

The ne’er-do-wells who wish to mutilate our English language conventions, by changing the word pants to PANT, will undoubtedly fail. Try the following phrases on your friends, family and co-workers and perhaps you’ll see why.
You have ants in your pant.
Liar, liar! Pant on fire! (Perhaps you’re half-assed?)
Keep your pant on. (See Liar, liar! Above)
Don’t get your panty in a wad.
The ballerina wore pink tight.
Long john kept the old miner warm. (Maybe the old miner reciprocated.)
I’ve lost my glass. (Thus, you can’t see clearly, or you can’t imbibe further?)
I’d like to get into her pant. (Good luck with that, Slick.)
She has great leg.

Put on your glass. (You either wear a monocle or are a Cyclops. How about that? A singular word ending with an “s”. Plural: Cyclopes. Blame the Greeks again.

As for “A great piece of ass,” you have two cheeks but only one ass. Or maybe not. It is the lower part of your trunk, unless you’re an elephant. Or a wooly mammoth.

The Japanese language has no plural form for nouns. Imagine my consternation when friends spoke of boob, breast, or bosom.

Of course, all the Japanese sales clerks say, “This is a nice pant.”


* Pant Rant: An alternate title suggested by Edna Whittier or the Valley Writers Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club.

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