This is how my mind has been working lately:
As Sheldon on the television comedy “Big Bang Theory” was helping Penny dress to go to the hospital after she dislocated her shoulder, he opened her underwear drawer and was mortified to learn she didn’t have “day of the week panties”. And I got to thinking, why is it that names for underwear, at least the terms we’re taught as a children, sound so…well, funny? Some people, mostly those under the age of 14, draw out the vowels when saying “paaaaanties” or “gawwwwwwnchies” and then this illicits giggles from anyone within the immediate vicinity who is also under the age of 14. I remember as a kid saying “I can see your gonchies” to the neighborhood boy when he climbed up to the top of the straw stack then snickering not because I actually could see them but because saying “gonchie” made me laugh. I think it was the “awwn” then the “chie” pronunciation combination.
Anyway, my understanding was that “gonch” was the name of the white elasticized underwear all boys wore. When I was a kid, no one used the term”boxer” or “brief”. Mind you I was raised with sisters and the topic of boys underwear never came up at the dinner table or anywhere else for that matter. Gonchies were to boys what panties were to girls.
Now for the interesting part.
“Gonch” is a term that is indigenous (can words be indigenous? or can only living matter be deemed “indigenous’??) to Western Canada more specifically Alberta and Saskatchewan. Did you know this?
Katherine Barber of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary says that gonch “In Saskatchewan, is gauch, gitch or gotch, but in Alberta it’s gaunch, ginch and gonch. On the Alberta side of Lloydminster, people suddenly get an ‘n’ in their underwear, and we have no idea why”(Edmonton Journal 2004).
Actually it has Ukrainian origins but you can find out all about that at Katherine Barber’s 11 Favorite Regionalisms Within Canada at http://www.randomhouse.ca/readmag/volume6issue1/pdfs/excerptBookOf Lists.pdf
AND I asked my mother. “Mom what’s the Ukrainian word for boys underwear?” And without a batting an eye while she was filling up butter tarts to be baked in the oven she responded…
And I thought “gonchie” was a universal term for tightie whitie. My reality has been drastically altered by this new information. The fact that some little girl growing up in some Midwestern American state, or in Ontario for that matter, missed out on all the glee created by saying to some boy “I can see your gaaaawwwnchies” is really quite sad. And all because of locale.
Next thing you know they’ll be telling me “tuque” is a term recognized by only a select population of the world.