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Sometimes I see the phrase

I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch [if such-and-so...]

which is an idiom for

I'm not going to get upset [if such-and-so...]

There are variants involving knickers, twisting, knot, etc.

Suppose someone wants to use an expression with a similarly light tone, but without the gender focus --given that panties and knickers are by definition women's garments. What would be a functionally equivalent expression without the single gender focus?

(Note, Is there a politer way of saying 'don't get you panties in a bunch'? includes the panties in a bunch but the meaning there is different.)


Update:

Many of you are misreading my question. I am not asking for an equivalent to "Don't get your panties in a bunch." I am asking for an equivalent to "I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch" -- which is completely different.

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Try this:

I'm not going to get all bent out of shape.

No gender implied at all, and the meaning is the same (to get upset to distraction about something).

  1. (of a person) Upset or angry.
    Don't get all bent out of shape—I'm sure she didn't mean to insult you.
    You should apologize to Phil before he gets bent out of shape.

    TFD Online
  • Robusto, you've got the question backwards (along with almost everybody else who's participated on this page). Please see the question update. – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:16
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    I see your update but I disagree that I got it wrong. What I and others have replied is true of any pronoun. But note that I did say "I'm not going to get all bent out of shape." You're trying to make a distinction without a difference. – Robusto Oct 8 '19 at 2:25
  • Ah, I just read your answer more carefully. I read your earlier answer, prior to your edit, stepped away, and came back and wrote the comment now, without noticing that you had added to your answer. Yes, by jove, I think you've hit on something! This expression works, and it works equally well, in the "you" version and in the "I" version. Thank you. – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:31
  • Another option is "all riled up," which has grown substantially more popular (according to Ngram) in published English since the early 1970s. – Sven Yargs Oct 8 '19 at 23:30
  • @SvenYargs - But it doesn't have the charm of the twist and the bending. – aparente001 Oct 9 '19 at 2:35
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There's nothing wrong with "... get your knickers in a twist". It's the idiomatic expression, and it can be applied to anybody regardless of gender or underwear choice. They are, after all, only metaphorical knickers, not literal ones.

Replacing the nouns in that expression will just make it seem as if you don't know the idiomatic form. Whatever gender-neutral boxes it might tick, it would fail to be good English.

  • Whether there's anything wrong with an expression is a matter of opinion. I am most familiar with US English, and in my opinion (I realize some may disagree), the panties phrase is disrespectful to women. I am guessing I'd have a similar reaction to the knickers version if I were really fluent in UK English, for the same reason, because I checked a dictionary and it said knickers are worn by women. At any rate, thanks for trying to help, but this doesn't answer the question. I didn't ask whether the panties and knickers expressions are problematic. I'd suggest a comment instead. – aparente001 Oct 7 '19 at 20:58
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    UK here. It's an entirely idiomatic expression, which means that it's basically lost all meaning. Knickers is certainly the most common form, and equally applicable to both sexes. – Andrew Leach Oct 7 '19 at 21:40
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    @aparente001 If you want to avoid disrespect, I’d suggest not using any variant of the saying. It’s intentionally disrespectful to the addressee, so you won’t get away from that no matter what item of clothing you substitute. Like Andrew and Rosie, I don’t perceive any gender bias in the phrase, despite the garment being primarily feminine, but it is disrespectful. You might use “Keep your hair on”, but that has similar, though milder, notes of disrespect. Essentially, I’d say the notion itself is hard to express without disrespect. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 8 '19 at 0:00
  • I agree with @Janud Bahs Jacquet - it's always going to be a rude phrase, whatever item of clothing you attempt to substitute. I'd be offended if someone said it to me, and I'd be incensed if they used the 'panties in a bunch' version, which I would also perceive as sexist. – Jelila Oct 8 '19 at 0:39
  • @AndrewLeach - I didn't ask whether the knickers expression is problematic. I asked for an alternative that could be used by someone who does not want to use an idiom that includes the word "knickers." – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:08
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Out of sorts, don't get upset

You could say 'don't get upset', or 'there's no need to get out of sorts about it'.

Note that 'knickers in a twist' is a fairly rude phrase. Saying it directly to someone is always going to be really 'fanning the flames' - not calming the situation. You can't convert a rude phrase like this into something polite without changing its very nature.

Non-rude alternatives are going to need to include genuine care for the person and be calming or assisting the situation.

You may however, harmlessly use the phrase to talk about someone out of their earshot, like 'my boss really got his knickers in a twist about my lateness'. But if he overheard you saying it - that would be baaaad! Sooo. Bad.

Gender neutral

Note that in UK English we use the expression about women or men, still with 'knickers'.

Meaning, you can say, even of a man ‘he really got his knickers in a twist over that!’

Why? Well it's even more funny!

Note: I am not talking about ‘who is saying it’. I am talking about saying the phrase about either a man or woman.

Postscript - what ‘knickers’ is really about:

'knickers in a twist' is a way of saying 'I perceive that something, under the surface, unseen, may be troubling you'. You need therapist-level sensitivity, to be able to pull off saying that to somebody without enraging them.

Postscript - the ‘therapy speak’. An alternative to ‘knickers’:

Here’s how to use more powerful language, in this kind of situation. Instead of ‘knickers’. This is the ‘therapy speak’ that I refer to.

‘Oh!’ - pausing, creating a ‘moment’, with the person. Looking at them. Maybe drawing them away from others and towards you, by gently touching their arm, looking them in the eye. Or just pulling them to you with your focused presence. Creating a tiny world, a bubble, with just the two of you in it, for a moment.

Then say, quietly (so that others cannot hear it):

‘Did something touch a nerve?’ Or ‘Are you having a bad day?’ Or ‘Can I help you with something?’ or ‘Is there something that I can do?’

They will then either - blurt out what happened - tell you the real issue - get angry or defensive

They may tell you ‘yes, dropped the damn egg on my tie this morning!’ Or, ‘I feel so bloody frustrated about this report!’ Or ‘things just haven’t been the same since Mary left...’

They may tell you, or hint at a really painful problem, even maybe from their childhood.

All you need do, is hear them. You can squeeze their arm, look them in the eye, smile and say:

‘I hear you’ or ‘I understand’ or ‘Oh, I see’. Or even, just ‘Oh!’ As you hold the moment and look at them. Feeling and being present to them, in that moment of empathy, is more important than words.

Then you’ll have found out the real reason why ‘their knickers seem to ‘be in a twist’. But without ever saying those words. You’ll know more of what they’re about. And you’ll have been able to help them.

How to say that your knickers are not in a twist (in response to the now re-written question):

  • I’m not going to lose my cool about it
  • I’m not going to have a thrombie over it
  • I’m not going to write to my therapist about it
  • I’m not going to lose sleep over it
  • I’m not going to spend sixty thousand dollars in therapy over it
  • I’m not going to lose my rag over it
  • I’m not going to throw a wobbly over it
  • I’m not going to rant about it
  • I’m not going to cry into my hankie
  • I’m not going to run home to my Mum
  • I’m not going to stress over it
  • I’m not going to need an extra 3 hours with my therapist over it
  • I’m not going to run around the room screaming about it
  • I’m not going to have to do retail therapy over it
  • I’m not going to need an underwear adjustment on this

Optional Personal therapy moment:

Ask yourself: ‘what are my knickers really in a twist about?

  • (Please see clarifying update in question.) What do you think about Scample's proposal of the undies? – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:13
  • "Get upset" does work -- but it's a bit flavorless. I think "bent out of shape" sounds more like an expression or idiom. // Thanks for explaining the funny aspect in the UK of men referring to the knickers. – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 3:24
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    ‘Bent out of shape’ is also rude, in the same way that ‘get your knickers in a twist’ is. ‘Bent out of shape’ is an Americanism, by the way, not used in the UK. – Jelila Oct 8 '19 at 21:57
  • I’ve updated my answer with a more powerful language to use when dealing with a ‘knickers in a twist’ situation. – Jelila Oct 8 '19 at 22:17
  • I’ve updated my answer to answer the now re-written question. – Jelila Oct 8 '19 at 22:31
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Is this affected by region? I believe I've heard "undies in a bunch" most recently, which has the advantage of carrying the rhythm of the original.

  • It works for me (US English).... Hopefully it works in UK English too. – aparente001 Oct 7 '19 at 21:01
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    The only version with which I, as a British English speaker, am familiar, is "knickers in a twist". All the rest of them sound like more or less clumsy variations on that to me. – BoldBen Oct 7 '19 at 22:34
  • @BoldBen - It doesn't need to be an established expression, as long as people can understand it. Consider the undulation example, for instance. – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:06
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I'm in the UK, where this is a (thankfully fading) idiom. "Thankfully fading" because to my ears, it's both sexist and insulting.

You can gender neutral reword your request easily enough. "I'm not going to get my undies in a twist over it!" Growing up, both male and female clothing was referred to as undies, so in these parts at least, and my corner of culture, its a neutral term. It might not be, everywhere. If it isnt for you, then "underwear" probably is.

But why leave it there? You can be much more plainspoken. "I'm not going to stress out over it".

That would be my choice if any.

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To keep some of the original flavour of the expression, you could say:

  • I'm not gonna tie myself in knots if...

The Free Dictionary defines the idiom as:

tie (oneself) (up) in knots
2. To become flustered while attempting to explain something (to someone).

  • Jim's a smart guy, but for some reason he always ties himself up in knots whenever I ask him to explain something on the computer for me.
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I have always liked "I won't get my undies in a bundle". Though, technically, undies usually refer to woman/girl underwear, it doesn't necessarily always refer to female underwear.

  • Oh shoot. I just checked a dictionary and saw that you're right, undies are apparently primarily for girls and women. I was thinking this was going to work when @Scample proposed it. Oh well, back to the drawing board. – aparente001 Oct 8 '19 at 2:16
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There are some proposals written by a Jacob Weeks on Quora:

Growing up I read a lot of Andy Griffiths books, and my answer is heavily influenced by that fact. My chosen phrases are:

  • Don't get your knickers in a knot
  • Don't get your trousers in a twist

Here are some that I have concocted:

  • Don't get your slacks in a swivel

  • Don't get your jeans in a jerk

I also came up with this one, but I don't think it has quite the same ring to it:

  • Don't get your underwear into an undulation

The first two are too gender-suggestive; the jeans won't work because jerk isn't a gracious word; slacks might work but I think the undulation is funnier, so that's my current best candidate.

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