Posted by R. Berg on December 31, 2002
In Reply to: Re: Wife-beater posted by James Briggs on December 31, 2002
: : Do people from the UK use the word "singlet" when refering to the tank top style men's undershirt? Or is that too archaic?
: : My Japanese girlfriend throws all these ancient english words at me. I didn't know what she was talking about. Singlet? I looked it up on the internet. Oh...a "wife-beater"? Wakarimashita.
: : My question is, how long has the slang word for a men's undershirt "wife-beater" been around? I'm guessing it's definitely a "post-modern" thing, whatever that means.
: 'Singlet' is a standard UK term for the sort of 'vest' you describe - that's another UK speciality, and we don't use the term 'undershirt'. As far as 'wife beater' is concerned, I've never heard of it.
In the U.S., "singlet" is an archaic (Shakespearean) word. "Wife-beater" meaning a sleeveless undershirt is apparently slang in some part of the U.S., but I hadn't heard it either until I found it on the Oxford English Dictionary's Appeals List. The OED editors are looking for examples in print before 1997.