Wednesday 17 September 2008

Meaning and Origin of "Caught with his Pants Down"


There is consensus as to the meaning of this phrase. It means to be taken by surprise or caught unprepared. I found three references as to the possible origin.
The first one relates to the Roman Emperor Caracalla, later known as Marcus Antoninus. He was known as one of the bad ass Emperors round about 200BC. History has it that while he was on a journey to somewhere important his armed escort gave him privacy to relieve himself next to the road. A certain Julius Martailis, who had a grudge against Caracalla took advantage of the opportunity to run forward and kill the Emperor with a single sword stroke. He tried to flee after the assassination but was killed by an arrow from one of the bodyguards of the now deceased Emperor.
A second source relates to the frontiersmen who could go nowhere without exposing themselves to danger. But, when a man has to go, he has to go, and weapons were taken along so that one could not be caught unprepared. It would be very difficult to defend oneself with your trousers around your ankles.
Third one relates to an adulterous husband caught in the act.
Whether these are sources or examples is debatable, but I could not find anything of substance to clarify
My personal experience you will find here
Anyhow, then meaning is to be caught in a state of unpreparedness, not necessarily relating to toilet activities

3 comments:

Charlotte said...

It was not 200BC..it was 212-217 AD

Graham said...

My mistake, must be AD not BC, thanks!!!

thatboy80 said...

it became a popular term to use in the trenches in WW1, because a solider would carry everything with him all the time so he was prepared for anything that happened and not unprepared or caught off gaurd