This is particularly true of entrant number 3, who had the following to say:
Personally, I still hate how @lykhyo thinks punctuation doesn't matter; he or she's wrong.
But perhaps more egregious is his or her overall message: the assertion that pants is incorrect. Of course, such a naive belief is nothing new. Like most of the examples on Buzzfeed's list, it is one of those usages that certain Brits (not all) feel somehow entitled to challenge, as if they themselves have absolute authority over a language that is ever changing.
In fact, users of our language have been changing pants for centuries (get it?). The word previously took the now largely archaic form pantaloons—an item of clothing initially reminiscent of tights (pantaloons was derived from Pantalone, a principle character in Commedia dell'Arte that wore notably tight leggings).
In the mid-17th-century, pantaloons became fashionable across Europe (particularly in France) and were initially the source of criticism among the English. However, in the 1800s—during the Regency era—the trend caught on in Britain. So, too, did the word pants. Indeed—as you can see from the British-English Ngram below—the word pants was in greater use in Britain than trousers during (and before) this time.
Also evident from the graph is a sudden increase in the usage of trousers at or around the beginning of the Victorian age, with instances of this word peaking at around the time of World War II.
Funnily enough, an American-English Ngram (pictured below) also showed trousers peaking during this time. Moreover, pants saw a peak of its own during World War II, until a rapid increase in usage set in from the 1970s.
Notice that, prior to the 1830s, the word pants was actually in fairly equal use across both countries, while trousers was—shock horror—in wider use across the United States.
Nowadays, of course, the meaning of pants has diverged. Brits use the word as a shortening of underpants—a word that was itself only first attested from 1911, while Americans have continued the more established trend of applying it to trousers.
Despite the historical prevalence of pants, my firm view on the matter, as with virtually all US/UK word differences, is that neither term is incorrect, just different. And so, to the likes of @lykhyo I have only this to say: don't get your
How do you feel about US/UK word differences? Are you bothered by people who have no tolerance for said differences? Let us know in the comments box below.
Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a contributor for BBC America and has written for Anglotopia and Smitten by Britain. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs this blog, Lost In The Pond, charting the endless cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States.
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