pair of underwear

Discussion in 'English Only' started by ScienceDay, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. ScienceDay Member

    Why do we call it a pair of underwear when there's only one?
  2. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    Good question! Maybe it's because there are two holes for legs--the same as pair of pants. :)

    Here's a link with one explanation for this.
  3. ScienceDay Member

    Yeah, but sweaters have two sleaves, and let we don't have a pair of sweaters, pair of vests etc., so why a pair of underwear?
  4. jaq Member

    English - UK
    "A pair of underwear"... hmm, I'm pretty sure that most people in the UK would say "A pair of underpants", or at least if it was referring to male underwear.
    "A pair of underwear" sounds slightly unusual to me (but maybe that's just me, so wait for other opinions...)
  5. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    Apparently, from the garment's early origins it was considered as a two-piece deal. A shirt was not for some reason.
  6. rsweet

    rsweet Senior Member

    English, North America
    I think there are a lot of differences in AE and BE words for these garments. In AE the're referred to as underwear, underpants, and panties (for women). Americans usually don't say "knickers" unless they're trying to sound British or referring to those funny golf pants. It's interesting that all these terms are plural.
  7. maxiogee Banned

    Did not the nether garments we wear derive originally from two separate leg coverings, which were eventually united into one garment?
  8. nelliot53

    nelliot53 Senior Member

    Puerto Rico
    Spanish [PR], English [US]
    Right you are!

    And two blades joined become "a pair of scissors", and
    two lenses become "a pair of glasses".....

  9. Moogey Senior Member

    New Jersey, USA
    USA English
    I agree with rsweet. I think it's a pair because it's symmetrical (like our bodies) and has a hole for each leg.

    It's interesting though because underwear is singular yet pants is plural.

  10. maxiogee Banned

    IS underwear single?
    (Collins English Dictionary defines it as "clothing worn under the outer garments, usually next to the skin". Chambers just says "underclothing", and the Oxford Concise Dictionary says "clothing worn under other clothes next to the skin". — as they all use 'clothing', I'd say it is plural)

    To me, brought up in an age of 'winter underwear' and 'summer underwear' and never allowed to leave the house without a vest (undershirt)… underwear is a mass noun. It includes, for males, vests, underpants and socks. All these resided in my underwear drawer, so they must be underwear :D Females have many more components to their underwear collection.

    I would never refer to any single item as 'an underwear'.
  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    Underwear, like outerwear, schoolwear, sportswear, or rainwear, is class of garment, rather than a piece of clothing.
  12. mtmjr

    mtmjr Senior Member

    California/Ohio (US)
    English (US)
    I realize it's been a while since this post has been discussed, but I want to make it clear that in AE we DO say "a pair of underwear" (as a singular noun) to refer to a piece of clothing (what could also be called "underpants"). It also refers to the class of clothing, as Brioche said, but is not limited to this definition.

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