"I favour the pleated slack over denim"

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

Here's a sentence from David Nicholls's novel Starter for Ten:
"I favour the pleated cotton slack over denim, but dark denim over light."

Is it ok to use "slack" in the singular? Does it mean trousers, or is it something else (i.e. the fabric in slacks)?

Thank you!
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    It means "slacks" and yes, the word's used to refer to trousers. Take a look at this earlier thread: slacks

    I haven't heard it used in the singular.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Who's the speaker, susanna? "Slack" in the singular conjures up, to me, an image of a slightly fussy upmarket tailor.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    When I read the question, I wondered what "cotton slack" was. I assumed that it was some sort of cotton fabric, and an uncountable noun. I googled it and was taken to American sites that showed "slacks" (casual trousers)

    So, in answer to "Is it OK to use "slack" in the singular?" the answer is "No. Not in BE." in which slacks parallels trousers, pants, tights.

    Hmmm... see #8 below
     
    Last edited:

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I think it is OK here because it seems to me that the speaker is a slightly comic figure. We don't say "the slack" generally, but this construction adds to the humour for me.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    That's strange. The speaker is a British eighteen-year-old and we're in 1985 :)
    Tell us more about the eighteen-year-old. Is he pompous? Or pretending to be?

    (Like suzi, I'd expect him to be a comic figure.)
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The example chosen is devoid of context, and as it only seems to mention types of cloth, I took the wrong meaning. In context, the use of the singular is justifiable, although, as Loob hints, the passage is expressed in a pompous, self-justifying style:
    So that was pretty much my only brush with youth culture. I suppose you could say that my own personal sense of style might best be described as informal yet classic. I favour the pleated cotton slack over denim, but dark denim over light. Overcoats should be heavy, long, and with the collar worn up, scarves should be lightly tasselled, black or burgundy, and are essential from early September through to late May
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Starter-For-Ten-David-Nicholls/dp/0340734876#reader_0340734876 and search for "the cotton slack"

    Words like slacks, trousers, pants, tights are plural 99.9% of the time, but the use of the definite article can be used and the noun then put into the singular. This indicates the totality of all slacks and is the same use as

    "Dogs have been man's companion for thousands of years" = "The dog has been man's companion for thousands of years."

    although, converting the word "slacks" to "the slack" has far less justification and is probably over-correction and over-formal.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Brilliant - pompous as only an eighteen-year-old can be:D.

    Thank you for the context, Paul:thumbsup:. I must get round to reading the book!
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Thank you all for your wonderful input!:) Yes, the book is really good. In my opinion, all of his books are!! (Once I finish this one I'll have read them all :D)
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Wiktionary sums up this usage rather nicely:
    trouser
    ...
    2. (in clothing retail and fashion) A pair of trousers.
    - And this is our linen trouser, sir.

    Usage notes
    - Outside the clothing retail and fashion industries, the use of the noun trouser to refer to a pair of trousers is rare, and often considered pretentious.
    But this article in the Guardian suggests that it might be creeping into general parlance (at least in some circles):
    Take the letter S, for example. In recent seasons it appears to have become redundant in the lexicon of fashion and style. It's as if an edict has been issued from Vogue HQ banning its use.

    In fact the plural is now more last season than a floral maxidress.
    Ws
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top