What does it mean if you say to someone that they have their name on their underwear? If this is an insult what are they implying?

I've heard this term in pop culture many times, usually in reference to someone who is a geek/nerd.

Back to the Future

Marty McFly: Calvin? Wh... Why do you keep calling me Calvin?
Lorraine Baines: Well, that is your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear.

Weird Al - White & Nerdy

I spend every weekend at the renaissance fair
I got my name on my underwear!

Did people actually write their name on their underwear?

What is the meaning and origin of this phrase?

closed as off topic by Mitch, Cameron, tchrist, Zairja, Andrew Leach Oct 26 '12 at 20:24

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  • @Cameron Language is culture, in a sense. I'm reminded of the questions (often citing the NY Times) from a frequent ELU user where the cultural context is needed to understand a certain phrase. They aren't considered off-topic. In this case, I wouldn't consider "name on underwear" an idiom, though. The first example is self-explanatory if you've seen the movie or search for images online. The second example is just a one-off line to indicate someone's weird or dorky, but it's not something I'd say is characteristic of nerds. – Zairja Oct 26 '12 at 20:14
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    Your question asks about a phrase "name on underwear" but that is not a phrase that actually occurs in the sources you cite. In both cases it is literally describing a name written on underwear. This is not an idiom. People write their names on things they don't want to lose, so that if it is found by someone else they'll know who the owner is. Designers write their names on clothes so people are reminded of what the brand is. That is all. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 26 '12 at 20:26
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    When I was a Boy Scout and went to summer camp, I had to put my name on everything I owned, including my underwear. – user21497 Oct 26 '12 at 23:06
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    What @Bill Franke said. I'm not sure what exact wording I might have come across, but I'm sure more than once I've read/heard such a construction used to mean someone is mollycoddled / overprotected by parents (usually, mother), and/or is consequently excessively fastidious/meticulous. – FumbleFingers Oct 26 '12 at 23:56
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    I think the Back to the Future reference is not so much an insult, but a joke on life in the 50s vs the 80s. In the 50s, a name on an underwear waistband meant the wearer had taken that particular pair to summer camp. In the 80s, it became common to stitch brand names on the outside of the waistband. So, when Lorraine of the 50s sees the name, she naturally assumes it belongs to the wearer (esp. since, in the 1950s, Calvin Klein wasn't a household name). Very funny, actually. – J.R. Oct 27 '12 at 10:21