tighty-whitey » tidy-whitey

Variant(s):  tidy-widy

Classification: English – /t/-flapping

Spotted in the wild:

  • Fruit of the Loom underwear gave nearly 100 percent of its corporate donations to tidy-whitey-wearing Republicans… (Gay and Lesbian Review, March-April 2005, p. 4)

The rhyming expression “tighty-whitey” or (plural) “tighty-whities” for ‘men’s briefs’ has been in use since at least 1990, sometimes in this order, occasionally with the elements reversed (”whitey-tighty”, “whitey-tighties”), and with several variant spellings (”tightie-whitie” and the like). Thanks to intervocalic flapping, “tighty” (with reference to tightness) was open to reinterpretation as “tidy” (with reference to neatness and cleanliness, certainly desirable qualities in underwear). See the discussion in my Language Log posting Tidy-whiteys.

The “whitey” element is open to reinterpretation for the same reasons, as “widy” (with reference to width), and at least a few speakers seem to have reanalyzed it, as Mark Liberman observed in his Language Log posting Raising and lowered those tighty whities.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/20 |

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