Re: **skivvies**

From: Jeffrey Gibson (
Date: Mon Mar 23 1998 - 20:57:19 EST

On Mon, 23 Mar 1998, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> OK, time for some creative etymology.
> Perhaps "skivvies" is derived from the Greek SKEUOS - "EU" is pronounced
> "EV" before a vowel in modern Greek, and probably was in Koine Greek as
> well. I'm not sure which of the senses of the word is the origin, but
> SKEUOS can refer to:
> o Vessel - Any kind of container. Skivvies are obviously a kind of container.
> o Body. And by extension, the skivvies which contain it.
> o Sexual life. Look at any Victoria's Secret catalog, and you'll get the
> connection.
> o Wife. Well, this may be a case of metonomy.
> Note that this last may have a direct connection to a meaning in modern
> British English to which Ben Crick brought our attention:
> > When I was at school in the 40s/50s, a "Skiv" or a "Skivvy" was a young
> > female domestic servant who laid the tables for meals and washed up the
> > dishes afterwards. They also cleaned the boarding house generally whilst we
> > pupils were at our lessons.
> For what it's worth, the plural, skivvies, refers to men's underwear;
> skivvy, the singular, refers to a female domestic servant. I'm sure
> creative etymologists could have fun with that fact as well.

One thing that Ben did not "mention" is that the "i" in "Skivvers" is
Long and thus the word is pronounced SKYvers, whereas the initial "i" in
"Skivvies" is short, and the word is pronounced as if it rhymed with
shiver (burrrrrr). Now let's see some creative linguistic ideas in the
light of pronunciation.


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