To Australians like me "thong" means a kind of sandal such as recently repopularized by the Havaianas brand but we know it means a kind of G-string in other English-speaking parts of the world.
To most English-speaking people in the 21st century it seems "flip flop" (or "flip-flop") is the term for the sandal-like footwear.
But several times I've come across suggestions that "thong" used to be used for this kind of sandal in North America.
I'm pretty sure I came across it in the novel A Confederacy of Dunces, written in 1960s New Orleans. But perhaps it was in another American novel from that era.
There's this comment on the talk page of the Wiktionary "thong" entry:
Note: Usage in U.S., particulary Southern California. (Prior to 1980's, perhaps later). Thong is exclusively footware (sandal), not related to undergarments or bathing suits. The usage of thong as G-string (bathing suit or underwear) is post 1980's?
Etymonline states that flip-flop meant "thong sandal," by 1972; but for thong states:
As a kind of sandal, first attested 1965; as a kind of bikini briefs, 1990.
As an amateur etymologist and lexicographer I'm very interested to know:
- During which years and which parts of North America were flip flops called thongs?
- Does anybody still call them thongs anywhere in North America?
- Did flip flops only replace thongs due to the latter term picking up the new sense of G string around the 1980s / 1990s?
Or to put it in a single question, What is the history of the term thong as a kind of sandal in North American English?