An Important Distinction Between Trousers and Drawers

The English language is infinitely flexible, providing multiple synonyms for almost every word. While that is helpful in most situations, it can also contribute to some confusing and embarrassing slips of the tongue.

Consider, for example, the word “pants.” As a verb, it describes the way an animal breathes with its tongue extended to cool down. As a noun, it refers to the article of clothing that covers the lower half of the body.

Louise Mountbatten
Louise Mountbatten

Just as there are varieties of pants, there are different words for that article of clothing, such as britches, trousers, and drawers. Unfortunately, at least one of the substitutes for the word has more than one meaning.

Louise Mountbatten was the aunt of the recently deceased Prince Philip of the United Kingdom. She married Sweden’s Crown Prince Gustav Adolf and became Queen of Sweden when her husband ascended to the throne.

Not wanting to rely on facial recognizance alone, she always carried a card in her handbag with the words, “I am the Queen of Sweden.” She said it was in case she collapsed in the lavatory at Fortnum & Mason, and no one knew who she was.

Despite her status as queen, she never perfected her mastery of the Swedish language. Consequently, when she was given a tour of Uppsala Cathedral, the clergyman who guided her gave his presentation in English.

His command of English left something to be desired, however. As they approached a beautiful chest of drawers, the tour guide told attempted to prepare Louise for something more special than the craftsmanship of the chest. He said, “I will now open these trousers and reveal some even more precious treasures to Your Royal Highness.”

— source: King George V by Kenneth Rose

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