pair of jockstrap

(Well, men’s underwear, so men’s bodies play a significant role, but nothing raunchy. Look at #1, just below, to get a feel for the content and your comfort level; this is about as racy as things get in this posting.)

Passed on to me by Sim Aberson a few days ago, with the comment “Pair?”, this jockstrap ad from the men’s underwear company TBô (sometimes T-Bô):


Not just “pair”, but “pair of jockstrap”, with SG jockstrap.The ad will take this posting  in many different directions, sometimes inconclusively, so the posting will proceed as a collection of very loosely connected mini-essays.

Partitives and plurals. On FB, Jeff Shaumeyer expanded on Sim’s query:

I don’t think I’ve ever before heard “pair of jockstrap”

I agreed:

I’ve long been accumulating all sorts of surprises with partitives [in this case, pair of] and with SG/PL and C/M, but “pair of jockstrap” is brand-new to me. Pretty clearly non-native English.

Meanwhile, Sim did a search for “pair of jockstrap,” and nothing came up.

First thing here: partitive pair of, which combines with a PL (C) noun referring to a bipartite entity. From NOAD:

noun pair: [a] a set of two things used together or regarded as a unit: a pair of gloves. [b] an article or object consisting of two joined or corresponding parts not used separately: a pair of jeans

(Other partitives combine with a (SG) M noun — piece of candy —  and still others with both PL and M nouns — lots of apples, lots of candy.)

Items of men’s underwear — briefs, shorts, boxers, trunks — are mostly clearly bipartite, so the nouns referring to them can occur with partitive pair of.

pair of + (bipartite) PL (pair of briefs) is in alteration with plain PL (briefs) —  He put on (a pair of) briefs. (For the plain PL, the bipartite nature of the referent is merely implicit.) And then, in the semi-technical usage of the commercial underwear world, SG is available instead of PL: We carry a brief that will astound you. This brief will astound you. (The SG usage tends to convey reference to a type, the PL usage to a token.)

[Digression. People sometimes find the commercial SG usage a bit odd. So, on FB just a little while ago, Monica Macaulay was taken aback by this Ibex ad with SG tight rather than PL (pair of) tights:

(#2) ]

But back to jockstraps. A jockstrap has two straps, and you put it on by putting each of your legs through a space between the pouch and one of the straps, and that might cause someone to think of the garment as bipartite and so to justify a pair of jockstraps (referring to a single object; it could also, of course, refer to two jockstraps). This is not standard usage, but it’s reasonably well attested, largely from what appear to be native speakers (Google hits in the low thousands). For example,

You’ll look good in a pair of jockstraps too (Wikipedia link)

the good guys of ESPN have this illustration of [A-Rod] … wearing nothing but a pair of jockstraps. (Wikipedia link)

Just like women sometimes wear pushup bras, men wear fashion jocks to pull up their package. I often get comments from spouses saying their man looks great in a pair of jockstraps. (Wikipedia link)

But, apparently, for most people the straps of a jockstrap are insufficiently analogous to the legs of briefs, shorts, boxers, and trunks: the legs are the central features of these garments (together with their waistbands), but it’s the pouch of a jockstrap (together with its waistband) that is its central feature; the straps are ancillary structures, designed merely to hold the central features together.

In any case, this gets us to pair of jockstraps, with one of the characteristics of pair of jockstrap — the partitive pair — rationalized. But then?

Chris Waigl on FB:

Also, maybe the writer thinks strap has zero plural. One strap, two strap

(like Dr. Seuss’s  One fish, two fish). However, only certain types of nouns (can) have zero plurals in English; these types are enumerated in Huddleston & Pullum’s CGEL, pp. 1588-9, and there’s no type there to which jockstrap would belong. (There’s a Page on this blog, recently added, about postings on zero plurals, which extends the range of examples a bit, but not enough to take in jockstrap.)

I think that at this point we have to recogize that we’re dealing with non-native English here — showing non-English zero plurals as a carryover from a language in which inflection marking grammatical number is not a a regular feature. (There are plenty of languages showing the equivalent of one strap, two strap across the board.)

So what we have here is a double anomaly in pair of jockstrap: the partitive pair is anomalous because the garments are not actualy bipartite; and the SG jockstrap is anomalous because the partitive pair calls for an actual PL form. The latter is a feature of certain non-native Englishes; the former probably is as well, since there’s some evidence that the person who produced partitive pair did so in the belief that this was the appropriate syntax for nouns denoting bottom undergarments.

pair of thong. Yes, in yet another TBô ad, for a bottom undergarment that absolutely is not bipartite:

(#3) Only one strap, the minimum required to connect the pouch and the waistband

It then turns out that the ads in #1 and #3 stand out from all other TBô ads — all the rest that I’ve seen have entirely standard English  (and  the jockstrap and thong don’t seem to appear at all on the TBô site, but are offered only on the net). That is, #1 and #3 might have a different source from the other ads.

Other comments about what’s in #1. In principle, you could remark on ManShaped Pouch, Temperature Regulating, Comfy Bamboo Fabric, or Bulge Enhancing. Or on The last … you’ll ever need. On FB:

AZ (on the pouch): On a more substantive level, I wouldn’t want a jockstrap with a pouch that wasn’t manshaped.

Chris Waigl (on the bulge): But, but, a rhino-like bulge?

CW (on The last…): I always get a little nervous when something is advertised as “the last X you’ll ever need”. My mind goes right to “is it supposed to kill the user?

AZ (in reply to CW): I think the suggestion is that this jock will never lose its elasticity. That would be genuinely remarkable. If you actually use a normal jockstrap regularly for sports or exercise, the elastic is going to degrade; classic Bike jockstraps had, in fact, rather short elasticity lives.

About the company. “From the “About Us” page on the company’s home page:

TBô is the world’s first DirectByConsumer brand.

We are a fast-growing start-up that was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and now sells products to more than 120 countries worldwide through our direct digital channels merging consumer-driven big data, collaborative creation tech, and e-commerce.

… Traditionally, fast-fashion retailers and designers are the ones to tell you what to wear & when. Those days are gone.

As a TBô Tribe member, you are given the ultimate freedom to be part of the process that allows you to choose what your bodywear looks and feels like.

Yes, another Swiss company, and with a scheme to enlist the users in helping to design the company’s products.

The name of the company is a mystery to me (and there seems to be nothing about it on the company’s site, so far as I can tell). The T is presumably pronounced like the name of the letter T in German or French (roughly [te]). The Bô doesn’t look German at all — no circumflex accent in native German spellings — and is somewhat odd for French, with ô at the end of a word. Perhaps the circumflex is merely ornamental. In any case, it’s likely that TBô is intended to stand for something, but what I don’t know.

The company’s ads are primarily for briefs, boxer briefs, and trunks, and all of those (but not, so far as I can tell, jockstraps or thongs) are illustrated on the website. Limited edition briefs are offered for on-line ordering in an amazing range of handsome colors: mint green, Carnaval yellow, dark burgundy, Rudolph (green with red pouch!), ballsy [hot] pink, sky blue, snow lilac.

Bonus. Since I hadn’t a clue about how to say ‘jockstrap’ in German, I went to the English-German Dictionary and extracted these possibilities:

Genitalschutz {m} sports
Suspensorium {n} cloth.
Sackschutz {m} [ugs. für: Genitalschutz, Hodenschutz] cloth.
Jockstrap {m} cloth.
Herrenjock {m} cloth.
Sackhalter {m} [ugs.] cloth.
Ballschutz {m} [Hodenschutz, Suspensorium] cloth.
Tiefschutz {m} sports

[ugs.] = umgangssprachlich ‘colloquial’
Hoden / Sacke ‘testicles’
Schutz ‘protection’

Of course, beyond the hint offered by [ugs.] or its lack, I don’t know anything about the contexts in which you might choose one or another of these.

4 Responses to “pair of jockstrap”

  1. Bill Stewart Says:

    A rather stupid ad, so unappealing that I think I need a new fetish. It reminds me of those horrid suspensory and garter ads in magazines. Still, the youth counselors at the YMCA in Charlotte still get to me, their speedos and jocks.

  2. Stewart Kramer Says:

    The iconography of the rhino for bulge-enhancing seems odd, but the feather for comfy bamboo fabric seems odder. Feathers represent light weight, but also tickling. In real life, feathers have sharp pointy ends (“From pillow’s heart I stab at thee”?), unwelcome near my ManShaped parts.

  3. Gijs Doorenbos Says:

    Possibly computer-generated? Ad text template “Last pair of X you’ll ever need” applied to all underwear items, replacing X by the item’s short name – briefs, shorts, jockstrap, …

  4. Notes of cade oil, spikenard, and labdanum | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] that comes to me through regular mailings from the Daily Jocks company) — see, for instance, my 1/19/21 posting “Pair of jockstrap” and my 2/6/21 posting “Is that an American flag in your […]

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