I am reading Spook Country, the second book in the loosely-connected William Gibson trilogy that began with Pattern Recognition, the book from yesterday's post. Spook Country is all about people working in the shadows -- artists, criminals, government intelligence contractors. It is from a meeting of men in that third group that today's word comes from:
- "From what little he'd managed to see, he knew that they were white and conventionally dressed, and that was it. He wondered if they too had been staying here, particularly as two of them were in shirtsleeves and carried no coats and jackets."
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I've wondered before exactly what shirtsleeves meant, though never in a place where I had a dictionary handy. There is a clue in the context here. The American Heritage Dictionary defines shirtsleeves as:
- The state of wearing no coat, jacket, or other outer garment over one's shirt.
I couldn't find any real etymology for this. It's an interesting term, though, as opposed to jacketless or coatless or something. I also can't find if it refers specifically to a button-down shirt with a collar, though I think it must, because I've never read or heard it used in the context of a T-shirt.
This is, of course, the preferred look for any male politician -- Republican or Democract -- wishing to show of that he is a regular guy. Always with the sleeves rolled up, of course. Because he is working hard for America, that's why.