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"caught with the pants down"

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 29, 2006

In Reply to: "Caught with the pants down" posted by Frank Soto on July 28, 2006

: The phrase "caught with the pants down" where is it coming from?
: I heard is came about when the Roman Emperor Caracalla a tyrant who built the luxurious Spas of Caracalla was killed by his guards when he was relieving himself.. anyone knows the meaning of this phrase ??

I'm not sure what you want. If he was on the john (yes, the Romans had toilets) with his pants down to the floor (or even to his knees), he surely couldn't run away or defend himself. The same fate befalls any man caught with his pants down. Figuratively, as in something like, Supervisor Jackson was caught with his pants down on this one, it could mean that he was exposed doing something he didn't wish exposed. It can also mean caught unprepared.

The Oxford English Dictionary is not extravagantly generous with examples of usage in this case. Its definitions is:

"5. colloq. a. to be caught with one's pants down: to be surprised in an embarrassing situation; to be caught off guard.
1922 J. JOYCE Ulysses 97 Must be careful about women. Catch them once with their pants down. Never forgive you after. 1963 P. MCCUTCHAN Man from Moscow iii. 36 There was..four days to go before the arrival of the Foreign Ministers but the West was not going to be caught with its pants down...."

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