Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Panty, Please

Betsy, you missed out.

For those of you unfamiliar with my living situation, Betsy was a housemate until she moved out more than a year ago. Like everybody who’s every called our address home, however, she still gets mail here. (I’ve said it before: She actually gets far more mail than I do, election-related material notwithstanding.) Most recently, Betsy received the below promotion for Victoria’s Secret, that purveyor of things that purport to be sexy but actually only put thin covers on said sexy things.

Normally, this would be tossed right into the garbage, but I scanned it for one specific reason: its use of the word panty.

Seriously? Panty? In my mind, a panty should be half of a pair of ladies underwear — or, I suppose, underwear minimal enough that it can’t qualify as a full-fledged pair of panties. (Given that this is Victoria’s Secret I’m talking about, that actually may be the case.) That I can remember, I’d never heard of the term for women’s underwear used in the singular before. Just as virtually everybody says “pants” or “a pair of pants,” they should also say “panties.” I admit it seems illogical that all of these things that are technically singular should be so often stated in the plural because their central feature has two distinct parts. But I haven’t heard anyone speaking of cutting with a “scissor,” so perhaps we should enforce the rule anyway.

Both Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary have the term listed under panty but also note that it’s more often used in the plural, so apparently it’s not technically incorrect to use the singular, just a little strange.

I wonder if the mailer was printed to say panty specifically so some awful woman with a coupon for “free panties” didn’t come into the store and demand more than one pair.

Are you listening, Betsy? One panty and one panty only.

And of interest, on that note: Wiktionary’s list of pluralia tantum, or words that exist on the plural form. (The list of singularia tantum is apparently still a work in progress.)


  1. On warm days, Mookie and Nigel are often panty.

  2. Why do we say panty shield instead of panties shield then? Is panties shield just too hard to say?

  3. Remember when Victoria's Secret would put free panty coupons in the Nexus? All the women on campus would go ballistic and scour every single kiosk and rack (hehe) to get their hands on one. I'd be in the office and some girl would come in and ask for a copy of that day's paper. I'd give her an affirmative and then she'd go and grab an entire stack.

  4. Batalla: Yes, it was always nice when our fellow students took an interest in the campus paper.