Comments on: An Alphabet of Feminism #11: K is for Knickerbocker /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/ A feminist pop culture adventure Thu, 23 Dec 2010 10:08:53 +0000 hourly 1 By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-422 Thu, 23 Dec 2010 10:08:53 +0000 “Knickers”, as a word, seems to have an odd status. It’s not the sort of word that might be bleeped on television, or fall foul of automatic Internet censorship. (On the latter, I once referred to “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” on a site which had such censorship installed. It appeared as “Never Mind the Buzzthingies”, seeming to me simultaneously twee and obscene.) But “knickers” appears to belong (or have belonged) to a lower order of naughty words. Consider this couplet from George Formby’s “Chinese Laundry Blues”:

Now Mr. Wu, he’s got a naughty eye that flickers,
You ought to see it wobble when he’s ironing ladies’ blouses.

I also think of an Alan Bennett sketch in which he’s trying to send a telegram including “Norwich”… carefully explaining that it stands for (k)nickers off ready when I come home”… and then “yes, I know that knickers doesn’t start with an N…” A major delight of the sketch is hearing Alan Bennett, with his rather prissy voice, repeating the word “knickers”… a word that would seem more at home in a Carry On film. Were Alan Bennett a woman, I’d think of his voice as suggesting a maiden aunt… but I can’t identify of a sufficiently close male equivalent.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-421 Sun, 19 Dec 2010 12:39:07 +0000 Maybe the other readers of this alphabet are too high-minded to bother about clothes.

Yeah, right…

By: Hodge /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-420 Sat, 18 Dec 2010 17:36:12 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Heh, well they are all from you, Miranda and me…

By: Hodge /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-419 Sat, 18 Dec 2010 17:35:43 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

Well, ‘knicker’ is itself a diminutive, as I mentioned in the post. I guess they all just keep getting smaller and smaller.

-ie should be under Doll, I think :)

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-418 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 11:03:26 +0000 I notice that the two entries in the alphabet to have attracted most comments (so far) are “crinoline” and “knickerbocker”. They are also the two entries that directly address clothing… Hmmmm…

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-417 Thu, 16 Dec 2010 00:04:07 +0000 In reply to Hodge.

Yes, dungarees have the look of being useful to painters, but I wonder how well they protect shirts from paint splashes. The shirt sleeves (at least) would surely be entirely unprotected. Perhaps I should research this by digging out the old top I’ve worn for painting and decorating, look at the distribution of paint splashes, and see whether they’re concentrated in the bib area.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-416 Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:56:28 +0000 In reply to Hodge.

It’s not clear whether Evadne Price intended a reference to Dick Turpin… but Jane Turpin is a lawless character. Dick Turpin is certainly a very familiar name to English people, but I have a feeling that Evadne Price may have been an Australian by birth. Would that make a difference?

The stories are very amoral. And the message the stories give to readers is that girls can be strong, independently minded and assertive. It would be astonishing to discover that Evadne Price wasn’t quite a radical feminist. I know little of her life, but have the idea that she drove an ambulance during the First World War.

By: Pet Jeffery /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-415 Wed, 15 Dec 2010 23:47:37 +0000 In reply to Hodge.

The “ies” of “panties” has the air of a diminutive. That may be a big part of why “pants” (as a word) feels more comfortable.

We’ve already considered diminutives several times, haven’t we? And women choosing to end their names with an “ie”… although I don’t remember under which word you subsumed that, Hodge.

By: Hodge /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-414 Wed, 15 Dec 2010 19:42:05 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

I suppose dungarees have are extended versions of jeans, which were first worn as a kind of appropriation of American work-wear; and, in fact, dungarees are presumably themselves originally work-wear of an ‘overalls’ nature…? In that case, they would serve a practical purpose to prevent paint getting all over your shirt, bib-style, which is taken by extension to mean ‘comfort-focused workwear’, when in fact it means ‘useful for painters’. Or something.

By: Hodge /2010/12/13/an-alphabet-of-femininism-11-k-is-for-knickerbocker/#comment-413 Wed, 15 Dec 2010 19:38:40 +0000 In reply to Pet Jeffery.

It’s funny how lots of people have an aversion to the word, too. Cf. ‘panties’, which I’ve always felt to be the most hideous word ever, perhaps because of the way it feels a bit patronising, and, by extension, extremely Wrong. I don’t know many people who happily use the word ‘knickers’ either, although this may just be because most conversations I have don’t contain extended reference to underwear! On the other hand, a lot of women I know talk about ‘pants’, sans ‘-ies’ which has a sort of unassuming and gender-neutral feel to it, but then, of course, means something quite different in America…