A load of pants

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Did you know you are sitting on the relics of a fourth-century Christian martyr? St Pantaleon, who died around ad305, became famous because he endured the attempts by his pagan tormentors to break him - on the wheel, by drowning, being fed to wild animals, and burning in a bath of liquid lead - without repudiating his Christianity. He was made the patron saint of the city of Venice and became so closely associated with that city that Venetians were known as Pantaloni. One of the stock characters of commedia dell'arte, a Venetian, was called Pantalon; in the 17th century, the French began to use his name for a trouser style. In the 18th century, the word appeared in English as the pantaloon - and then it was a mere step to underwear being called "pants" or "panties".

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