• bowyang •
Pronunciation: bow-yæng • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A gaiter or strap, usually made of leather, tied around the trouser leg just below the knee. 2. A short chap that covers the leg from below the knee to the ankle like overboots.
Notes: More interesting than the usage of this funny word—used exclusively in Australia—is the usage of the bowyangs themselves. Outbackers love to tell you that they are worn to prevent snakes from crawling up your trousers. Others say they keep insects and similar vermin out of the pants. They probably were originally used to prevent the pants from riding down while ranchers were shearing sheep.
In Play: Whatever the reason for bowyangs, they symbolize the yokel to Australians: "Clarence stood against the wall during the entire dance without saying anything, like a farmer out for the first time without his bowyangs." Bowyangs in the second sense of this word are useful whenever you are gardening or doing dirty work close to the ground: "If you want me to clean the kids' room, you'll have to get me a pair of bowyangs."
Word History: This funny word can only be traced back to the dialects of Scotland and Northern England, where you find words like bowy-yanks and bow-yankees referring to leather leggings. In Scotland you also hear booyangs and bonanks. The implication might be that they are pieces of clothing that you yank on and perhaps tie in a bow. However, this is pure speculation where speculation is all we have to go on.