Pair of pants

In re:

I remember being told at one point that the expression made more sense when “pants” used to come separate from each other and from a piece to cover the hip area. Any truth to this?

Such garments have historically existed, but I don’t know whether they were sufficiently common at the right place and time to influence English “pants”.

(A further complication is that, in modern England, “pants” means underpants. But the same issue applies to “trousers”.)

Come now,Sir!

A ‘pair’ exists when a unit composed of two similar,but different, parts combine to make a workable unit.

Two left-side pants sections cannot be sewn together to make a pair--------two 'left side- pliar sections cannot become a workable unit.

Two left eye lenses----etc.


The making of shows as distinctly left and right is a modern invention.

The making of scissors with distinct upper and lower blades is a modern invention. On the other hand, a pair of scissors must be either right- or left-handed, even if the two blades in the pair are identical.

How would you classify Caberet? Elements of both, I would have said.

Not quite. Scissors are ambidextrous, with identical blades. Shears, on the other hand, :slight_smile: are made left and right-handed. One blade fits the thumb, and the other fits the fingers. I didn’t know this until recently.

I was told in high school that pants came from the big billowing pantaloons of the long-ago Dutch. I don’t know how valid that is. In Spanish, trousers are pantalones, also plural. Legs are plural, though they are joined at the top. “Where did Napoleon keep his armies? In his sleevies.” Do you put your leg into a pant? The old saw says even a king puts on his pants one leg at a time.

I’m not really gathering into a big conclusion, here. It’s just that, sometimes, logic is no match for tradition. It’s a… :smack: :eek: :rolleyes: paradox.

(First of all, above, that should be “shoes”, not “shows”.)

For the rest, sorry, but A) you’re using somebody’s private definitions of “scissors” and “shears” there, and B) you’re wrong anyway. No pair of two-part scissors or shears is bilaterally symmetric. (The finger holes have nothing to do with it.)

Not quite. Prove it to yourself; try to cut something with scissors using your left hand.

more info here.

I guess you’ve forgotten the blunt-nose scissors you used in grade school. You can take apart a dozen pairs, randomly grab any two halves, and rivet together a pair of scissors. Both sides are identical. It’s the same for the pair of small sewing scissors on my desk. No left, no right, just identical pieces.

That makes it rotationally symmetric about the long axis, not bilaterally.

When you cut with scissors pretty much the force is from your thumb onto the rest of your fingers, and also somewhat away from your hand. My pair of (right-handed) kitchen scissors has the top handle connected to the left blade. When my (right) thumb presses out to the left on the handle, the blade gets pushed a bit to the right (fulcrum at the pivot) and closer to the right-hand blade. In my left hand it gets pushed away from the other blade.

Really, most scissors are not just straight bars of metal. They’re curved in a bit towards the tip. As you close them, the two sharp edges actually slightly cross, making sure that whatever you’re cutting won’t slip between the blades. If you use the wrong hand, it wides the gap and cutting becomes much more difficult.

Each scissor must be lefty or righty; you then put two of the same together to form a pair of scissors with that same handedness. So both halves of a pair of scissors are identical, in contrast to a pair of shoes. In order for the analogy with shoes to work, one would need a left-handed blade and a right-handed blade, which can’t be combined into anything useful.


The problem is that, in order for the scissors to be bilaterally symmetrical, the two halves would have to be mirror images, which, as you so rightly point out, they aren’t.

I suppose some truly awful scissors could be made with the two pieces their own mirror images, but that would require one of two things: a razor edge, or two edges on each half. Even then, they would still acquire a handedness upon being riveted together.

(Old-fashioned one-piece shears are symmetrical in gross, but I suspect that their edges are not. Even if they were made so, they would need continual reversal in use, or wear would make them assymmetrical.)

Also, is it correct that is it a “pair of pants”, but a “pant leg”? Google has “pant leg” at more hits than “pants leg”.

Actually, this is regional. I get ribbed at university for referring to trousers as pants because that’s what everyone else does where I’m from (NW England).

I’m reading A Hat Full Of Sky by Terry Pratchett right now. In one section one of the witches asks Tiffany, before they get on a broom, if she knew about wearing “thick, woolly, pants” to keep ice from forming. This means underwear, right? If it was pants (US) they’ve of known at a glance if she was wearing them. At least that’s what I concluded. What do Brits call what we call pants anyway if both pants and trousers mean underwear, just slacks?

Trousers doesn’t mean underpants to any British person I’ve ever met.

I did not mean that “trousers” means underwear in England, but that “trowsers” (and Scots “trews”) are, like “pants” plural.