Beware the Undertrow!
August 3, 2010 11:00 PM   Subscribe


Have any of you ever heard or used the word undertrow? Am I even spelling it correctly?
I'm primarily wondering if the coinage is unique to my mother, who used it to describe singular or plural underpants. ("What if you get into a car accident and you're wearing dirty undertrow? What will the paramedics think?")

Trow, I believe, can be derived from trowsers, but our dear internet has scant acknowledgment of it. Does this word actually exist or is it primarily a family neologism?

Bonus question: How does the word trunks relate to trowsers/undertrow?
posted by Cold Lurkey to Writing & Language (16 answers total)
Try "undertrews" instead.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:02 PM on August 3, 2010

Neither undertrow nor undertrew are words as far as google says.

Undertow is a word.
posted by dfriedman at 11:11 PM on August 3, 2010

I've heard this many times before. If you spell it undertrou (as in "trousers"), you get plenty of hits in Google (mostly starting on the second page).
posted by vorfeed at 11:11 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're spelling 'trousers' wrong, thus you're spelling 'undertrou' wrong.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:12 PM on August 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm going to have to stick up for "undertrews" on the grounds that it's just "under" and "trews," the original word that gave us "trousers."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:31 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Google book search reveals a handful of hits for "undertrou", most of which are just hyphenated versions of undertrousers, but this one from a 1979 book uses it in the sense that your mother used it.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:03 AM on August 4, 2010

It's not in my Shorter OED.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:34 AM on August 4, 2010

Undertrow, undertrews, undertrousers all not listed at

Trews is listed (as noted by fairytale of los angeles), with an accepted meaning of "Trousers in general (tartan or otherwise), including close-fitting trousers worn by women."

So it would seem to be a reasonable variation on 'underpants'.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:41 AM on August 4, 2010

"Trunks" comes from the word "trunk-hose", which was a particular garment worn in the 16th and 17th century. It is unclear whether the word trunk was used in the sense of the stem of a tree or in the sense of a pipe. It has no known etymological link to "trouse/trousers/trews".
posted by kosmonaut at 4:58 AM on August 4, 2010

My father has often referred to the removal of ones underpants, especially in a condition of extreme bathroom necessity, as "dropping trou", or "dropping trow."

Seems similar. He is from Buras, LA.
posted by TomMelee at 5:26 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is your mother British? (Asked because in UK English, the word "pants" has feminine-only connotations lacking in US English, while the word "trousers" is used much less in the US.)

Also, see Garp, for the under toad.
posted by Rash at 6:19 AM on August 4, 2010

"Drop trou" is what you do at the doctor's for a proctology exam. It's a totally common term and comes from trousers, as others have indicated.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:32 AM on August 4, 2010

Just for the record, I had a friend in college who confessed that his childhood nickname was "Poosytrou" and it took me a few seconds to parse that.
posted by CathyG at 6:35 AM on August 4, 2010

I don't think it's a word yet but this is English and if we all agree, we can mint "undertrou" today!
posted by chairface at 10:31 AM on August 4, 2010

My mom and her sisters used to call underwear "undertrow" or more colloquially, "u-trow" when I was a child (never written, only spoken, so I'm totally guessing on the spelling). Honestly this question is the first time I am realizing it is not in common parlance.
posted by holyrood at 11:12 AM on August 4, 2010

If it were "undertrou," I could grok what Cold Lurkey's mother was saying. As it is, "undertrow" sounds like part of a description given by a classic Chicago South Sider about the arm strength of a Bears' QB: "He'd always undertrow the receivers by a coupa two-tree feet."
posted by stannate at 4:02 PM on August 4, 2010

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