Panties in a Bunch Idiom

By | May 22, 2022

  • #8

1 a woman’s or girl’s undergarment, covering the body from the waist or hips to the top of the thighs and having two holes for the legs.

Above is the WR dictionary definition of ‘knickers’, which is a BrE term as far as I know. There are many different sorts of women’s lower body underwear. The word ‘knickers’ is often used as a generic term, but it is also an old- fashioned word and suggests a very covering garment such as was generally worn sixty years ago. ‘Knickers’ started at the waist with the legs ending at least 5 cms down the leg, often mid -thigh and sometimes just above the knee. Since there were no stretch fabrics in those days, they were made from cotton or wool knit fabrics and were fairly loose fitting.

So, there is a dimension of extremely patronising insult to telling somebody “not to get their knickers in a twist”. The implication, if it’s a man talking to a woman, is that she is getting upset about nothing, like an old woman wearing some non- sexy underwear called knickers, and therefore incapable of rational thought or reasonable emotional reaction. Lord Golightly, my partner of 45 years, once suggested to me that I was getting worked up about nothing. Only once …. .:rolleyes:
I have no idea what it might mean if a man tells another man not to get his knickers in a twist.

“Knickers” fully cover the buttocks at the back, and of course the stomach and ‘genitals’, or shall we say, the visible pubic area at the front. This is often the only area covered by some sorts of women’s underwear these days.

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The part of such a garment that goes between the legs is called ‘a gusset’. Naturally, this covers the female external sex organs, properly known as the vulva,


the vagina. The vagina is the internal organ leading to the uterus. It is rather well ‘covered’ even if a woman is naked. It is rather more inaccessible if the woman is wearing any sort of undergarment. There used to be a sort of knickers that did not have a gusset known as ‘French’ knickers. If you want to ask me about that, it should be a separate thread!




Allegra Moderata (Sp/Eng, Cat)

  • #9

Goodness, Hermione!!
I have heard and used the phrase ‘Don’t get your knickers in a twist’ all my life and never thought for a single moment that it was patronising or an insult. I have never linked it to the idea of old ladies’ ‘bloomers’, simply to women’s underwear! In fact it has a slightly comic sound to it. I would say that it’s a slightly comic phrase which would only be used between friends or family members who would be most unlikely to take offence.

Uncle Bob

  • #15

I think the phrase can be directed at men just as much as at women, irrespective of what sort of underwear they are likely to use. I certainly use it in a gender-independent manner. Agreed, when directed at a man it could be taken to mean he is not only needlessly upset but also behaving like a (stereotyped) woman but I don’t think so since it is a

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reply and so doesn’t usually carry any philosophical/sociological undertones. I see it just as a humorous set phrase…and wouldn’t like to be deprived of it.

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Panties in a Bunch Idiom