pair of pants

mike hunsicker: Why do we call a pair of pants a PAIR? Because it has two legs? : A shirt has two arms, but we don't say, "a pair of shirts"...?: Any answers?
Bill Doggett: This question was posted on this list a few months ago. The answer: Pants only became a single garment late in their history. Until the late seventeenth century, the garments used to cover legs (most often called "hose") were two sleeves of fabric, tied to the belt with laces (usually called "points")and open at the crotch, which was covered by the tunic, breeches, a codpiece, or not at all. In the high middle ages, only the men of the nobility were allowed to wear short tunics which exposed their genitals -- commoners had to cover up. In the eighteenth century, there was quite a bit of migration in the names of garments, and we ended up calling hose "trousers" and stockings "hose." Pants, short for "pantaloons" and named after a stock character of the Commedia dell'Arte, is an American expression which until recently was considered quite vulgar by the Brits. In any case, whether pants, trousers, breeches, britches, knickers or shorts, the concept has always remained plural even though the garment became singular.


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