Wallflower Words: the ant’s pants

By January 7, 2015 language One Comment

You may have noticed that Wednesdays are dedicated to words here at my patch of sky. My Which Word Wednesday series that puts two words in the ring has been going strong for several years, because, really, who doesn’t love a word brawl? Although I have plenty of new word pairs to feature, language is more than just right or wrong word usage. It’s also about word wonderment. New-to-me words cross my path and I am struck by the depth of our language and the amusement it brings.

So I’m launching a new Wednesday word series titled Wallflower Words. This is where I will coax a lesser-known, often-ignored, painfully shy word away from the fringes and into the spotlight. Never fear—Which Word Wednesday isn’t going into retirement! I’m just splitting the language load between the two series.

Ready to give Wallflower Words a whirl? Let’s do this! First on my dance card is a new-to-me word that I discovered while preparing for this week’s Christ and Pop Culture podcast. Each year, new words are voted into the dictionary. An article published by NPR discusses that selection process and this year’s additions, including this gem: the ant’s pants. Here’s the definition:

the ant’s pants, n.: (Austral. informal) an outstandingly good person or thing

 Referring to something as the ant’s pants is to say it is brilliant or awesome or the coolest thing in the universe. As in:

Blog posts about language are the ant’s pants.

Think of it as the Australian version of the bee’s knees—which also means “an outstandingly good person or thing.” An interesting aside from the New Oxford American Dictionary: the bee’s knees was “first used to denote something small and insignificant, [but was] transferred to the opposite sense in U.S. slang.”

What is our fascination with attributing human characteristics to tiny insects? And why do I love it so? I will now have to work very hard to not overuse this glorious phrase.

For lively discussion on the ant’s pants and other fascinating topics, check out episode #116 of the Christ and Pop Culture Podcast.  

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