Trousers isn’t a beautiful word. It’s a bit pudgy, a lot plain, and rolls off the tongue like a pumpkin rolling around the back of a pickup truck. Yet I adore it, blunt and blue-collared as it is. It may be more coal than diamond, but it has a lot more sparkle than “pants”, an ugly word, sharp and whiny — even Barry White couldn’t make “pants” sound sexy. Of course, he might have trouble with trousers, too. It’s one of those words the Brits have kept for themselves, so it sticks out a little when it’s uttered in America, like calling an elevator “the lift” or your home “my flat.”

I can track the point of entry of certain words in my vocabulary (I first read “qualms” in a purloined Penthouse Forum when I was a teen, so the word is imbued with a sexiness far beyond its true meaning) but trousers has an untraceable personal etymology. The English major in me would like to think it was Dickens or Orwell who snuck it into my subconscious during my college studies, or at the least, that I nicked it from Ian Fleming during my summer of Bond. I’d feel self-righteously smug if I could pin it down such a literary origin, but knowing me, it was probably whispered by some sexy-voiced Irish lass whose use of the word conjured daydreams of the trousers’ content, not the cloth. (That’s how it happens sometimes. Sorry Mr. Dickens.)

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