As a little girl in Indiana, my mother would often put my hair in what she called pony tails: that is, unbraided, loose, rubberbanded only at the base. I know, I know, we all know what pony tails are…right? Well, apparently not.
My understanding is a pony tail is a pony tail is a pony tail–whether you have one, two, or five, if it’s clipped/tied at the base and the hair hangs loose like, oh, a pony’s tail, it’s a pony tail.
Pig tails, on the other hand, were braids. One braid or ten, a braid was also called a pig tail because both are a bit curled, squiggly, and so forth.
BUT…I seem to be the only person I know in this Southern CA area that has understood these haristyles to be so named. Out here, several people have corrected me that a ponytail is just one of what I also know as a ponytail, but pig tails are two loose “ponytails” as I call them on either side of the head. Braids are just…braids.
This makes no sense to me. I know I’m arguing the etymology of hairstyles, but seriously…how do two floppy, horse-tail-like things on either side of a girls’ head (or, not to exclude anyone, guy’s head) resemble a pig’s tail? Do pigs have two fluffy tails and I’ve just failed to notice it up to this point?
formerly from New York (near Canada, not the City) -
Pony Tail - loose hair, band at base, single at back of the head.
2 Pony Tails - loose hair, band at base, one on each side.
Pigtail - braided hair, band at end, single at back of head.
Braids - braided hair, band at end, one on each side.
The dictionary seems to avoid the question of multiplicity entirely, and does say a pigtail is braided:
ponytail - A hair style in which the hair is clasped in the back so as to hang down like a pony’s tail.
pigtail - a plait of braided hair that hangs down the back.
Hmmmmm. That begs the question of what hair arrangements sticking out from the side of the head are. To me, the age of the wearer is a factor. Pigtails are worn by little girls, suggest gingham dresses, and can include those unbraided things with the hair cut too short to form a pony tail. Ponytails may be present on women and longhaired men of all ages. Adult women are simply wearing braids, although paired braids seem to exist only on women participating in Oktoberfest or similar activities.
Pigtails existed historically on men if they happened to be 18th century sailors or Chinese in traditional garb. And I would not suggest to either Obelix or Willie Nelson that he was wearing “pigtails”.