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How did the British expression “bag of pants” come to mean “rubbish”?

How did the British expression bag of pants come to mean rubbish?

How did the British expression “bag of pants” come to mean “rubbish”?

The British expression “bag of pants” is a colloquial and somewhat informal way to express that something is “rubbish” or “garbage.” It’s likely not a widely recognized or traditional idiom, and its use may be relatively recent. The phrase is straightforward in its meaning, essentially suggesting that the thing being referred to is as worthless or undesirable as a bag full of pants or underwear.

British English, like any language, continually evolves, and new idioms and expressions emerge over time. These may not always have a well-documented origin but become part of the language through common usage. It’s possible that “bag of pants” is a more recent slang term that has gained some popularity in certain regions or social groups in the UK.

The ‘bag of’ part is redundant; ‘pants’ is a slang word for ‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang notes that the word has had this usage since the 1990s and suggests that it is a variant on ‘knickers’. That has been a slang word with the same meaning (‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’) since the 1970s. They suggest that that in turn might be a euphemism for ‘knackers’ (a slang word for testicles), or it might simply be a playground obscenity (i.e., underwear is a naughty idea for children).

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How did the British expression “bag of pants” come to mean “rubbish”?

The British expression “bag of pants,” meaning “rubbish” or “nonsense,” doesn’t have a widely recognized or documented origin. It’s likely a variation or a play on other similar expressions that use everyday items to denote worthlessness or poor quality.

Expressions like “load of rubbish,” “pile of pants,” or “heap of rubbish” are common in English, where items like “rubbish” or “pants” are used metaphorically to describe something of little value or quality. Over time, people often create variations of these expressions for humor or emphasis, leading to phrases like “bag of pants.” However, it’s crucial to note that these expressions are informal and colloquial, often varying between regions and communities.

Language and idiomatic expressions can be quite creative and evolve over time, and new phrases or variations can emerge without a specific historical origin. They often reflect the cultural and linguistic richness of a particular region or community.

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What is the origin of the very British expression “crikey”?

At primary school in England in the 1950s, I had a very prim, devout teacher who read the Bible every day as her main relaxation. She was in her early 50s and a confirmed spinster (USA: bachelorette). In one lesson, she explained the origin of many popular ‘blasphemous’ expletives that had been in use in London since medieval times. One was “Gor Blimey!” (God blind me), and another was “Crikey!” (Christ’s keys!)—in other words, the keys to heaven. One that became popular in Australia, having been taken there by British convicts in the early 19th century, was “Strewth!” (God’s truth!).

What’s the meaning of the British expression “All talk and no trousers”?

I’m not sure that’s right. We have lots of idioms in English that are similar to this, but not quite as you word it. And they mean different things.

“All mouth and trousers” is someone who is rather lippy and full of himself.

“Fur coat and no knickers” is someone who looks quite posh on the outside but is underneath it all “no better than they ought to be.”.

“All gong and no dinner” is someone who bigs themselves up massively and then turns out to be a flop.

The “all talk” bit is obvious. Empty boasting! He can “talk the talk, but he can’t walk the walk.”

The “no trousers” part is more difficult. I suppose it could mean that he lacks manliness (since wearing trousers is symbolic of take-charge masculinity). Or perhaps that he is so poor or ill-prepared that he can’t even venture outdoors? But the equivalent expression, “He’s all mouth and trousers,” always made more sense to me.

It conjures the image of a sexual braggart who has an impressive bulge in his crotch and makes great claims of sexual performance and/or conquests, but who has no real experience or ability to back his claims. His words are empty, and the impressive bulge is nothing more than folds in his trousers! So he is actually just a dickless windbag! That seems like a much better insult.

When we say “pants” we refer to a piece of clothing that covers you from your waist to your ankles. What do the British mean when they say “pants”?

To a Brit, “pants” are…

  • underpants
    • “The guard-dog tore my trousers off – and I had to run away in just my pants.”
  • the breaths of a dog
    • “When my dog is hot, he can’t sweat – so he pants.”
  • or something that is substandard or useless.
    • “I’m not watching that TV show again! The first episode was absolute pants!”

The word “panties” can be used in Britain – but often carries the implication of pre-pubescent underwear. Little girls wear panties. The most common name for the undergarment that covers the pelvic area of post-pubescent women is “knickers”.

Knickers is short for Knickerbockers – but very few people know that now. Anyone in Britain talking about “Knickerbockers” is almost certainly referring to an ice-cream sundae (The famous “Knickerbocker Glory”!)

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What does the British expression “rumpy pumpy” mean?

It means sexual intercourse, shafting, shagging, rogering and such activity as generally undertaken by two happy, consenting adults.

A “rump” is a backside, bottom, buttocks.

“Pumping” is the very demanding and honorable work undertaken by the male in typical heterosexual “rumpy pumpy” . (it doesn’t refer specifically to anal intercourse).

What is the origin of the word ‘pants’ (trousers in British English)?

pantaloons (n.)

1660s, “kind of tights” (originally a French fashion and execrated as such by late 17c. English writers), associated with Pantaloun (1580s), silly old man character in Italian comedy who wore tight trousers over his skinny legs, from Italian Pantalone, originally San Pantaleone, Christian martyr, a popular saint in Venice (Pantaleone in the comedies represents the Venetian). The name is of Greek origin and means “all-compassionate” (or, according to Klein, “entirely lion”). Applied to tight long trousers (replacing knee-breeches) by 1798; pants is a shortened form first recorded 1840.

Pants and trousers are still synonyms across large parts of Britain, particularly in the north, Leeds and environs being an outlier in this regard.

Pantaloons appears to have taken on the meaning of women’s underwear in some areas (see image below) and from there becoming a generic term for mens underwear. Men wear pants, women wear knickers.

How did the British expression bag of pants come to mean rubbish?

The graphic below is from BBC Voices and is the result of respondents in a Twitter poll indicating which term they used for outer leg-wear.

How did the British expression bag of pants come to mean rubbish?

How did the British expression “bag of pants” come to mean “rubbish”? Saying

I’m not English language specialist but seems people started to recognize pants as a rubbish. It’s good move that can help to improve public health as it’s proven that pants worn by men are the main reason of civilization diseases outbreak and pants worn by women cause infections.

I’m going to assume you’re not British so please excuse what may seem a dumbed down explanation. In the UK pants means underwear. Colloquially if we say something is “Pants” we mean it’s rubbish or really bad/not good (bit with vaguely humorous undertones).

Therefore “Bag of Pants” would mean something especially rubbish or sub-par. It’s confusing but in British English, pants are not trousers. Pants in US English is what we in the UK translate to mean trousers. But here in the UK, pants are knickers, (underwear), and the word stems from pantaloons.

What does saying bag of pants mean?


Colloquially if we say something is “Pants” we mean it’s rubbish or really bad/not good (bit with vaguely humorous undertones). Therefore “Bag of Pants” would mean something especially rubbish or sub-par.

What is a paperbag pant?

What Are Paperbag Pants? Paper bag pants are high-waisted pants with pleats that cinch at the waist with a tie or belt. The extra fabric at the top of the pants gathers around the waistline and shows above the belt. Paper-bag-waist pants come in many cuts for different body types, from wide-leg pants to skinny jeans.

What does pants mean in slang?

If you say that something is pants, you mean that it is very poor in quality. [British, informal] The place is pants, yet so popular.


It was a mid-19th shortening of the word pantaloons. The English word I find more interesting is “knickers”. The American author Washington Irving invents a nom de plume for himself while writing his satirical history of New York in the early 19th century. He borrows the name of his friend Harman who lived at the old Knickerbocker house in Schaghticoke, NY,

…calling himself Diedrich Knickerboker. Irving made up this spelling of the surname, as his Knickerbocker friends actually used a slightly different name at that time (Knikkerbakker or Knickerbacker ) before Irving’s book became popular and famous, at which point they adopted Irving’s spelling for their own family name. Consequently the Dutch sounding name does not even exist in the Netherlands, and every American Knickerbocker is descended from those same Schahgticoke Knickerbockers.

Irving’s book has caricaturish illustrations of New York’s early Dutch settlers, and before long the baggie, short pants in those illustrations started to be called Knickerbockers, later shortened to knickers. And eventually, somehow, Washington Irving’s fabricated pen name becomes the word most commonly used to refer to women’s undergarments in Britain. Who could have predicted that?

How did the British expression “bag of pants” come to mean “rubbish”? saying