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Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm a boxer shorts man -- have been for more than 20 years. But in my younger day, it was briefs all the way. Particularly when I was a kid, we proudly wore Fruit of the Loom briefs and t-shirts under whatever we were sporting. Later on, my California girlfriend looked at them with disgust and called them "tighty whiteys," but back in Down Neck Newark they were standard issue.

Now, as the temperature here in Portland has been hanging around below the freezing mark all day, I'm reminded of a variation on the briefs -- a version that we used to break out only in the cold weather. These were made of the same material as briefs, but they had legs in them that extended most of, but not all, the way down to the knees. They were kind of like today's boxer briefs, but with a slightly longer leg. The standard underwear makers sold them right along with the regular briefs, at Bamberger's or Woolworth's on Market Street uptown.

Coming from a Polish family on my dad's side, we had a special name for these underpants: gotchies. This was from the Polish or Ukrainian words for underpants -- gatky or gatsi, I believe they were. I think it's a bit of a vulgar term in the original, but around our house, a slightly off-color reference was no big deal. And I'm pretty sure the original means underpants generally, not just the long ones that you break out for extra cold weather. For us, however, "gotchies" were the long boys.

"It's gettin' cold out there Jackie, better wear your gotchies."

"O.k., Mom."

Now along with the gotchie underpants every year came the gotchie song. It apparently referred to someone whose wife or mother found herself without hers. "Stada baba neeno gotchie," we'd sing. "Neeno" is not the correct spelling of whatever word or words were in there, but the translation was supposed to be "My old lady ain't got no underwear." The second line sounded something like "A la boozhie ma," which was supposed to mean something like "Please get her a pair."

There was more, but I don't think we kids ever got past line 2. That was enough to mark the occasion of freezing weather. You put on your gotchies and trudged off to school, singing "Stada Baba" to the rhythm of your own footsteps.

Comments (4)

These are the very ones that Britney Spears has recently been photographed without.

I don't care much for boxers. Too much stindeen swingage.

I'm probably an anomaly, but I like to mix it up. Plain white briefs, boxer briefs, loose fitting boxers- it's all good. All depends on the mood you're in and what level of support you're after. The little woman isnt too keen on my whitey tighties, but she knows better than to mess with a mans Fruit of the Loom.

Gotchies. We said that too. Never thought about that before. Hmmm.

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