some clothing fasteners

Back at the baby post, commenter dadge wrote:
Another word for your list is "popper".
...which is another word that's come to the fore of my experience since Grover's birth. BrE popper is the equivalent of AmE snap, which is to say it's the name for a type of fastener, as illustrated to the right (image from Searching for this photo on the web, I found that a lot of dealers in such fasteners call them snap buttons, but to me they're just snaps. The OED, in its definitions for snap and popper, calls them press studs. This counts as a baby-related word since one is constantly doing and undoing snaps/poppers at the crotches of (BrE) babygros/(AmE) onesies in order to get at (BrE) nappies/(AmE) diapers. I don't know why, but I feel silly saying popper, so I've been glad that I seem to be able to get away with snap. (Better Half won't let me get away with diaper, however.)

When one fastens/unfastens snaps, one snaps [and unsnaps--see comments] them, so I just asked Better Half what one does to poppers. He says you pop them. To my AmE ears, though, it would sound funny to pop something closed--things pop open, but don't pop shut. But perhaps BrE ears don't have that bias. [Added 29 Jan: The difference seems to be that snapping involves making a closure, and popping usually involves undoing the fastening. I'm pretty sure that no one says unpop to mean 'to fasten a popper'. So what seems to have (AmE colloquial) weirded me out here is that the verb doesn't seem to describe fastening--the purpose of the device--but describes unfastening. Both dialects' words are onomatopoetic.] (Your thoughts?)

(For other BrE/AmE differences in the use of the word snap, see here.)

Another clothing fastener that differs transatlantically is (BrE) zip versus (AmE) zipper. (The verb in both varieties is zip.) One is tempted to form the theory that there is a strict economy of syllables: dialects are allowed a fixed number, and since press studs have two syllables in BrE and one in AmE, some other clothing fastener had to inexplicably differ in its number of syllables. It would be a silly theory, of course, but it appeals to my taste for symmetry.

When zips/zippers are at the front of a pair of (BrE) trousers/(AmE) pants, they mysteriously differ in their number: in BrE you must take care to do up your flies, while in AmE, you do up your fly. But that matter is discussed in the comments for this old post, so please see there for more details.

I can't think of any more clothing fasteners with dialectal differences...but I'm sure someone will point them out if they exist...


  1. poppers pop open! it's the undoing that i've always thought of as the poppy bit, not the doing up. :)

  2. Just passed this on to Better Half, who insists that you can pop poppers into closed position. For example, BH usually leaves two poppers/snaps open on Grover's onesies/babygros, and I take him to task for his sloppiness. (Grover deserves better!) He says that I should tell him to 'pop up those poppers'.

    But...I wouldn't be at all surprised if not everyone shares BH's intuitions on this one. It might be a BHism, rather than a Briticism.

  3. It is onomatopoeic, to pop open or closed. My Am/E ears have never heard snaps called poppers. Stuffed breaded mozzarella filled jalepeƱos have taken up the name Popper of late, though.

  4. These BrE ears have no problem with things popping closed - possibly even a slight bias in that direction rather than popping open.

    (p.s. also poppers)

  5. Are alkyl nitrites called "poppers" in the UK too?

  6. All of "popping open" , "popping closed" and "popping down to the shops" sound OK to me.

    I think the word "poppers" would also have links with Party Poppers and Amyl Nitrite here, which might bring a smirk to some faces.

  7. Oh, "popping shut" doesn't sound right though.

  8. But of course snap as well often has a connotation of breaking apart whenever something simply snaps: a twig snaps; a cable snaps...

    But we ignore it when we use it in a phrase like snap shut or snap into place.

    To my ear the sense of (minor) explosion with pop also disappears in a phrase like pop shut or pop into place.

  9. While my New England sensibilities reject 'poppers,' I have to say that 'snaps' sound more like cookies than fasteners. Perhaps I just don't have enough garments with this style of fastener, but I don't remember myself or anyone else using 'snaps' in this way, except in verb form ( "snaps-up," "unsnaps").

    It's hard to actively think of what one would more naturally or automatically say, but I think that 'snappers' would be most likely, if not just 'buttons' substituting some form of 'snap' for the verbs.

  10. What about Velcro? Here is France it's called "scratch" (sometimes). Any everyday terms for it in UK English?

  11. I think this is on-topic, but it's a phrase rather than a word. Up in the north east of England at least, we used to say "You've got egg on your chin" to let someone know he was walking round with his flies undone.

  12. I am going to enjoy visiting your blog! Having been educated in the Philippines, it is safe to say that my English is more American than anything else. It's a bit of a challenge keeping my accent and vocab from changing, after having lived here for a few years with my British husband.

    Hi, Lynne! I am new to the Expat-Blog community and I hope that you'd visit my blog soon! I am currently living in England, having moved from Manila 4 years ago. Have a great week ahead!

    A Pinay In England

  13. I think the BrE for velcro is "velcro."

    And yes, Expatmum, up here in Glasgow, Scotland, we also used to occasionally have egg on our chins in the same manner.

  14. As we veer into the topic of open flies (both AmE and BrE): when I was a child in Washington State, the expression was "XYZ", for "eXamine Your Zipper."

  15. It never occurred to me to refer to that style of button as anything other than 'buttons'. I've never heard any words to distinguish between buttons which snap and buttons which do not. The all-knowing Wikipedia says "snap fastener (also called snap, popper, and press stud)".

    However, if backed into a corner and forced to choose, I would go with some variant on 'snap', because to my ears, the noise these buttons make is not a pop at all. I'm tempted to say that perhaps a plastic version could pop, but I've never personally encountered plastic versions, the only experience I have with these is in metal on my winter coats (which I suspect BrE would call something else, but I'm not sure what). I can imagine that plastic versions of this might be found in baby garments, and possibly windbreakers (BrE: windcheater).

    But calling the plastic version some variant of 'pop' and the metal version some variant of 'snap' is purely my own personal sensibility, and shouldn't be taken as indicative of my WNY upbringing.

  16. They have always been 'Press Studs' to me (BrE), although I have heard 'Poppers'. Poppers always comes across as an informal, almost slang, word for them.

    Snaps is something I have learned from my American wife over the last few years. Thinking back, I probably understood what she meant the first time she used 'Snaps' but its not a context where I would think to use the word.

  17. To me (British) that's a pop-stud, rather than a popper. But maybe I'm alone in that.

  18. Malimar--I had the exact same feeling about 'popper' sounding like a plastic version of a (metal) snap, and at first I assumed that was what it meant--but then I started experiencing my in-laws and friends referring to the metal ones on Grover's clothing as 'poppers', so I learned better!

  19. Ah, a BrE person here however raised in Canada where things are AmE in general. I call pop-studs 'pop-studs' as well as 'poppers'. I don't think I'd ask my husband to 'pop shut' the studs on my son's clothes, I'd just say 'do them up' as in 'can you do up those pop-studs at the top of his shirt?'

    Poppers are also 'Party Poppers' here which are an indoor streamer that explodes open with a sound like a Christmas cracker when you pull the string.

    Poppers here can also mean amyl nitrate same as in AmE.

    Interesting one, love your blog!

  20. "When one fastens/unfastens snaps, one snaps them, ...."

    I would use "unsnap" for undoing a snap. (AmE third culture kid)

  21. At the risk of making an awful joke, be there anywhere in the Anglosphere where these popper/ snaps are called 'crackles'? A Krispy joke it is, I warrant.

  22. Doug, you're absolutely right. I blame sleep deprivation for my earlier claim. I think I'll go back and amend it...

  23. I grew up in the midwestern US and have worn shirts with snaps/pops for years and years. Often just called "western shirts" which refers to the combination of their cut, style (or lack of!), and usually to their snap fasteners as well (which are often of a slightly decorative nature).

    But I have also heard "snap shirts" quite a lot in various parts of the US. In the UK this is completely replaced by "pop shirts", at least among people I know who wear them (or who think I should not wear them and don't mind voicing that opinion). Preference seems to be for "pops" over "poppers", but it's close.

    As far as the sounds go, it seems to me that they are more "snap" like when being fastened, and "pop" like when being unfastened (especially all at once: pop.pop.pop.pop.pop and it's off). Of course my current view may be biased by this linguistic discussion!

  24. ^^^ Sorry, I meant that UK speakers seem to use "pop shirts" where US speakers would use "snap shirts". Both groups use "western shirts" fairly often, at least in my personal experience.

  25. As a slight variant, I've always known these as "pop fasteners".

    emb (BrE)

  26. I'm going to have to agree with Zhoen, to my western American ears, 'poppers' are cheese stuffed jalepenos (sorry don't know how to make the proper enye on this keyboard) or poblanos that are deep-fried. I would only refer to the fastener in question as a 'snap'.

  27. Only ever heard "press-studs" in Australia - both poppers and snaps are unknown to me. This is unusual in a country with a tendency to baby-ising words.

  28. But about "pants" vs. "trousers" - my ex, who was from Atlanta (although his father was a New Yorker... it was his mother who was from a down-on-their-luck patrician family from New Orleans) was taught that a man doesn't wear pants, that's what ladies [sic] wear; men wear trousers.

  29. To my mid-Atlantic ears, "snap" is used to describe the fastener that makes the snap sound when you "snap" it shut or "unsnap" it open. A popper would be a spicy appetizer.

    If we had a button we would "button it" shut or "unbutton it" open. (And when we want the kids to be quiet, one might rudley request that they "Button it!" implying that their lips should be fastened shut.)

    As for Velcro, I think we just close it, but, no, we wouldn't scratch it open OR shut. To me, scratching would involve fingernails. What about in BrE?

  30. I'd say "do your poppers up" or "undo your poppers", so I don't think BH is alone!

    Also, zip tends to be a shortening of "zip fastener" in BrE.

    Will have to search your blog to see if you've mentioned buckles, belts, braces and suspenders!

  31. We always called them snaps, zippers, and fly. But all sound fine to me.

    But why wont bh let you say diaper? Why should he care?

    Seems strange to me. But of course nappy sounds like my Black girl friends talking about their hair!


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)