Posted by Smokey Stover on October 02, 2007
In Reply to: Kick-in-the-pants posted by Drdo on October 02, 2007
: I'm looking for the origin and background information (not meaning) for the positive form of "kick-in-the-pants". (A joy, amusing, fun to be with...) I went on your archives and it pulled up Archives 13. But I scrolled down the entire #13 and found no reference. Appreciate your help.
This is not an easy case, at least not for me. The negative kick, or kick in the pants, or kick in the teeth, as a mark of punishment or criticism, goes back to the 17th century, but in the kick-in-the-pants form especially to the 20th century. Kick in the pants has also appeared as kick in the behind and kick in the ass. How could it not?
Another meaning of kick is the kind of kick you get from strong liquor, a jolt or sharp stimulation, and often, therefore, a thrill, a feeling of excitement or pleasure. "I get a kick out of you." This meaning appears from the 19th century on.
I haven't personally seen any search for the origin of "kick in the pants" as equivalent to a jolt of excitement or pleasure, but it seems to me that it results from combining the kick of excitement or pleasure in the form of a jolt, with an already-established phrase, kick in the pants. The resulting confusion that this portends is presumably headed off by seeing the context. "Kick in the pants" as a jolt of excitement or a happy thrill is, I'm sure, a 20th-century usage.