Thursday, July 11, 2013

Grammar Lessen: A Trouser or Two?

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In today's post, we again visit the celebrated Dr. Boli, who 'reproduces' an archaic advertisement showing a distinguished-looking fellow -- distinguished, I mean, by his fine pipe (no, not an iron pipe, the tobacco sort!). Okay, he also wears his hat at an angle one might call "jaunty" (to borrow a nice old French term), and that's kind of distinguished-looking, but the pipe is the important detail. The pipe says this is a guy with gravitas. A guy you can trust! Anyway, this fellow announces:
I make $5,000 a day gathering lint from trousers pockets.
That's not just pocket change, so the fellow must gather a lot of lint! But I'm not especially interested in such economic matters as the going market price for widgets produced from wedged-in lint. Such matters are out-of-pocket for me. No, it's grammar manners that appeal to my mind. Anyway, thinking (or maybe just its near relative, musing) out loud on Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine, I commented:
Should that read "trousers pockets," "trousers' pockets," or "trouser pockets"?

On the model of "pants," the first two would be correct, but the third not -- based on what sounds right and wrong to me about "pants" and its putative singular.

Yet . . . "trouser pockets" doesn't sound wrong to my ear.

On a related question -- assuming these do have singulars -- has anyone ever really seen a trouser, a pant, a breech, a britch, or an overall?

If so, would these be correct for what a one-legged man might wear?
I await answers, both here and at Dr. Boli's, and if I don't get some answers soon, I'll be about as sore as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest!

Well . . . maybe not that sore. Sitting here at my desk in Seoul, and sporting two lengthy legs stretched out under the aforesaid desk, I'm unlikely to lose any butt-kicking contests but the intellectual sort, and those ain't really very painful since my brain is well-calloused from getting its kicks through musing on the things it muses on.

Not that my head is up somewhere the sun don't shine . . .

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