From time to time a word will pop into my head. It is usually a well worn word, that has seen decades of hard use. The word will appear before my mind, transformed by a softer, more distant light. It will lure me into a state of wonder, as its meaning strikes an unfamiliar pose, as if I’ve come upon it, as a stranger in a strange land might.


I’ve not really thought about the word before. It is a word that I learned early in my foray into language, used daily as ablutions neared successful completion.

It is a charming little word, don’t you think? Pants that are worn under overpants. Overpants, not a word I’ve ever heard or used. But underpants, these little pieces of fabric, have their own word. Their presence, hidden as it is behind a veil of outer fabrics, is recognized, and honoured with a moniker.

Underpants. The word puts me in mind of a Carl Larrson painting, Mamma’s and the small girls’ room, watercolor, 1897.

Mamma’s and the small girls’ room, watercolor, 1897



Date: 4:00 PM EDT Monday 26 August 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 23.5°C
Dew point: 11.5°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: SSW 7 km/h
Humidex: 26
Visibility: 24 km


“It’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.”
Tallulah Bankhead
1903 – 1968

Well!! There’s me sorted.


  1. And here I thought it was just me who had words pop into my head by surprise, for no apparent reason! I’ve planned to keep a notebook handy to write them down, because honestly they aren’t even related to anything I’m thinking at the moment. So strange. -Kate

  2. Kate, you too! I love it, when words suddenly pop into my head. Like you, they aren’t related to anything in particular, but there they are. I love to explore the words that come up, they lead in all kinds of interesting directions. Usually as I’m playing around with them, I get distracted by other interesting things I bump into in my explorations, and off I go following another line of thought, like art, Swedish design, lots of interesting stuff out there to read and explore!

  3. Teri

    Interestingly, panties, underpants, and even knickers are diminutives of words for men’s pants. Only bloomers, from the word give clothing worn by Amelia Jenks Bloomer, is a solely female based name for our undergarments.

    On the odd occasion, I too can have a word suddenly show up in my mind, but it doesn’t happen very often.

  4. Teri, interesting etymology. I think underpants came up for me this summer because we hang our laundry out on the line to dry, so I spend time with the underpants here, pinning them up on the line when they are wet, collecting them again when they are dry, folding and putting them away.

    You as well, having words pop up! I’ve always loved words, even before I could read. Before I learned to read I regarded written words as pure magic.

  5. WendyNC

    Ah, words and cracking the code of learning to read! How well I remember being desperate to do it, because I knew that if I could just figure it out, I could find out all kinds of things.

    I have a vivid recollection of sitting with my tiger storybook, which I had memorized, trying to match the sounds of the words I knew with the letters on the page. There was a true eureka moment when it came together for me. The word was “the.” A humble little article, which had the gall to be pronounced two different ways, the subject of a long conversation with my mother when I ran to tell her of my discovery. I was not an easy child.

  6. Wendy, what a beautiful description of your first deciphered word!!

    How different our paths to reading! I began with the sounds of letters, then took my little book upstairs in my Granny’s house, and sounded out words until I got some of them. The book was a story about two little Eskimo children. I knew the story, but had not memorized it. Took that to my Granny, asked a bunch of questions, she cleared up a few mysteries for me, and then I was off to the races. Eureka moments are prescious in life!

    Wow, I had forgotten, on a concious level, that “the” has more than one pronounciation, it has been that long I’ve taken it for granted!

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