Witches' knickers

Discussion in 'English Only' started by cuchuflete, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It seems that in Ireland, and perhaps elsewhere, the term is used to name plastic bags, or sacks if you prefer, caught in tree branches.

    Ideas about the etymology of the term are sought.

    If you are a de-knickered witch, you too may reply, but the question is really about the origin of the term, so personal anecdotes may be omitted.

  2. judkinsc

    judkinsc Senior Member

    English, USA
    Perhaps from the idea that witches fly about, and if they lose their pants, they get caught in trees?
  3. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I didn't know that before :) If I had to guess I'd say it's from flying their brooms through the trees and getting said knickers caught on the branches and ripped off.
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I've never heard of this, but hey that's no surprise. I believe.

    Ireland has introduced (since 2002) a levy on plastic bags provided by supermarkets, so perhaps the witches are riding commando more often these days.

    In a single year, Irish consumers reduced their consumption of plastic bags from 1.26 billion p.a. to 120,000 p.a., while concurrently raising approximately 10 million for the Irish Revenue Commissioners.
  5. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I have to say that just learning about this expression made my day.
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    More tidbits...not quite a strong etymology yet, nonetheless fun...

    From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, in an article about Britain!! http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/index.html
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Yes, the tax is one that you are encouraged to avoid: it was introduced primarily to decrease the number of bags littering our country, especially the "witches' knickers" that get caught in fences and trees, rather than to raise money.
    Irish Times, 2 September 2006

Share This Page