This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Spot the Frippet: suspenders.

A friend from California once wrote describing an exciting encounter with a very great opera singer. She told us that she couldn't remember what colour his pants had been, but that he'd been wearing red suspenders.

It made our English minds boggle a bit, because, in England, not only are pants what those in the USA call underpants, but suspenders are what are there called, I understand, a garter belt.

Red suspenders. Well, it made a lovely image.

(As a matter of interest, in Britain we call the over-the-shoulder straps that hold up the outer nether garments braces.)

Suspenders of both the British and American kinds are, sadly, rarer than they used to be, but of course anything that suspends anything is a suspender. You particularly get suspenders on suspension bridges. They're the vertical chains that hold up the bit you travel across:

(1878 illustration of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, England.)

You also get suspenders holding up hides in tanning tanks.

If you don't happen to come across any tanning tanks in your day-to-day life, then there will still be things suspended all around you: flowering baskets, for example, or (very fashionable at the moment) sharp metal lampshades arranged exactly at head-clonking height.

Mind you, you're not likely to spot those until just too late.

Spot the Frippet: suspenders. The modern holding-up-the-nether-garment suspender is said to have been invented by Albert Thurston in 1820. Samuel Clemens (yes, the Mark Twain one) patented a new sort of adjustable version in 1871. The word suspender comes from the Latin suspendere, from pendere, to hang.

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