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So the general rule for garments worn over the lower half body, which you put your legs through separate routes, is that they are plural. We have plural-only nouns such as trousers, pants, panties, etc. But the word for the thong which appears to be a much skimpier version of the panties is singular. Why is that?

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    That's not a rule. There are plenty of singular nouns: underwear, diaper, pantyhose, skort, and overall. (Note that the last two are also found as plurals.) – Laurel Nov 2 '16 at 15:08
  • Underwear is uncountable, not singular, though. But +1 for bringing up diaper and pantyhose. – Vun-Hugh Vaw Nov 17 '16 at 12:52
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Its usage to indicate something similar to the lower part of a bikini is recent (1990). Probably the fact that it looks just like a narrow strip of cloth/leather as in its original sense is the reason why it is used in the singular:

Thong (n.) :

  • Old English þwong, þwang "narrow strip of leather"* (used as a cord, band, strip, etc.), from Proto-Germanic *thwang- (source also of Old Norse þvengr), from PIE root *twengh- "to press in on, to restrain" (source also of Old English twengan "to pinch, squeeze"). As a kind of sandal, first attested 1965; as a kind of bikini briefs, 1990.

Etymonline

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    Right. Before they were a kind of bikini bottom, a thong was a single sandal with a y-shaped ... uh ... toe-retention mechanism. In that case, where there were generally two sandals, they would be called thongs. However, when that style of bikini was named for resembling the sandal, it was singular, because it looked like a thong sandal, not like a pair. I thought that was a pretty good question, though. :) – Aiken Drum Nov 2 '16 at 18:05
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That is because we don't have trousers, pants, panties, etc… we have pairs of those things.

"A pair of trousers (or anything)" is a pair, which is singular and properly compared to singular thong, whether as Janey-come-lately lingerie or a traditional narrow strip of leather.

(While "thong" or "thong-type"are perfect terms to describe certain kinds of sandal, the thong is never more than a vital part of the sandal; it cannot be the sandal.)

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