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Hi, Please Don’t Call Something a ‘Pant’ If You Mean ‘Pants’

New, 3 comments

Fashion is the absolute worst offender when it comes to singularizing plural words.

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Some people’s skin crawls when they hear the word “moist”; for others, it’s “panties.” For me, the absolute worst sonic offense you can commit is to talk about a pair of things as if it is just one thing: “She sported a nude lip” is one egregious example, or “On the model, a sensible pant.” It makes me want to cringe until my body is bent double, or exfoliate with battery acid, or climb into a coffin and close the lid tight against all further stimuli. I hate it so much!

Unfortunately, I have also chosen as a profession the illustrious field of lifestyle journalism, which is basically the only place where anyone butchers language in quite this manner.

Photo: InStyle
Photo: Tips On Life and Love
Photo: The Tab

To that end, many of my more fashion-oriented colleagues — chief among them Britt (literally our editor-in-chief) and Elana — disagree with my take. They argue that it makes MORE sense to singularize, especially when referring to an item as a category (say, “That look needs a block heel.”). It’s sleeker and less clumsy, and sets the language apart.

So I took the matter to our copy editor, Emma, who deals with all things linguistics on a daily basis and agreed with me that the language of “pant” is just too jargon-y. It soon became clear that this is a tussle between the Fashions (them) and the Normies (us), with no resolution to be found in either the AP Style Guide or the comments of this Merriam-Webster entry (which is so much more delightful than it has any right to be.)

This is a value judgment on no one, and far be it for me to criticize the lexicon of an entire industry — if fashion were a person, it would probably hate the degree to which I abuse phrases like “boning” and “lmaoooooooooooooooo.” And English is an absolutely bonkers language! It’s totally weird that a single garment is referred to as a “pair of pants!” (We can thank L.L.Bean for introducing “pant” into the water supply back in 1962.)

But this is the reality in which we Normies live and read and speak, and to transgress that reality is to make my stomach churn. The wording just does not sit well with me — it feels too smug, too exclusive, too squirmy. Above all, it’s just not how people talk! Or at least it’s not how this person does.


So tell us: Do you also hate the singularization of plural words?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Yes, it makes me wish my ears were stuffed with chewing gum / my eyes were shut with packing tape.
    (63 votes)
  • 34%
    I’d never really thought about it, but seems kind of annoying?
    (73 votes)
  • 35%
    Calm down, it’s not that serious.
    (76 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now