specifically the category of euphemism known as indirection (cf.
). First intended meaning was "trousers", attested from
1823. Meaning "underwear" is recorded from 1910.
Because of a euphemism's intentional ambiguity,
the perceived meaning can drift. While at first, "unmentionables"
referred with Victorian
hyper-sensitivity to trousers
, the functional
meaning drifted expediently to underwear
. Currently, examples
can be found where it is clear the writer or speaker means to refer
expressly to the genitals