"Bang" or "bangs" is not a recently developed word, it appears in the written English language in the 16th century and originated in Old Norse centuries before. It was not initially used in connection with a front fringe of hair, however, until the 1870s. The term "bangs," but not the style appears to have originated in Ameica. HBC is not sure yet, however, just why it was adopted. One source said it was adopted from the adverviable usage of "bang" describing the clipping or bobing of a horse's tail straight accross. Such horse's were called "bangtails" and "bobtails". The term is also used in Britain, but "fringe" appears more common. We are not sure, however, just what term is used in many other countries. The Dutch refer to it as a "pagekopje" (page boy cut). The Germans use "pony" or "ponies" terms of course derived from English.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913): "Bang \Bang\, v. t. To cut squarely across, as the tail of a horse, or the forelock of human beings; to cut (the hair). His hair banged even with his eyebrows.--The Century Magazine.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913): Bang \Bang\, n. The short, front hair combed down over the forehead, esp. when cut squarely across; a false front of hair similarly worn. His hair cut in front like a young lady's bang.--W. D.Howells.
"Bang" or "bangs" is not a new word, it appears in the English language in the 16th century. It was not initially used in connection with a front fringe of hair, however, until the 1870s. The term "bangs," but not the style appears to have originated in Ameica. According to the Random House 2nd Unabridged Dictionary the usage of bangs to describe a hair style emerged in America during the middle 1800s from "bang-tail" which meant a horse with its tail cut short. Same source says "bang" still has a meaning of cutting a horse's tail. The Oxford English Dictionay has collected millions of period quotations to assess word origins. They define "bang" as "to cut (the front hair) square across, so that it ends abruptly". OEO confirms that the word originated in America. The period quotations mentioned date from the 1880s. 1880--Howells Undisc. Country viii 113" "His hair cut in front like a young lady's bang." 1880--Evening Standard 3 April 4/4: "The present style of a banged girl." 1882--Century Magazine XXV, 192: "He was bareheaded, his hair banged even with his eyebrows in front." 1883--Harper's Magazine March 492/2: "They wear their hair 'banged' low over their foreheads.
The origins of the term "bangs" is about as far removed from the hair style of a little boy or girl as one can imagine. It was apparently brought to the Britain Isles by the fiece Norman invaders of the 8th century. Only in 19th century America, however did the word take on the modern meaning of a fringe of hair over the forehead. The use of "bangs," the hair style, does appear to come from the same roots as "bang," which The American College Dictionary defines as "a loud, sudden explosive noise." It is probably most associated in the popular mind, at least in American with the sound of a discharged gun, but is used for many other abrupt noises.
The origins of "bang" are like many English words a study in British history. It appears to have originated with an Old Norse verb "banga" meaning "to hammer." It is this a
linguistic artifact of the Viking invasions of England which began in the 8th century. Given the terrifying appearance of the Vikings it seems a suitable word to have entered the developing English language as the Vikings over the next two centuries merged into the British population.
The word "bang" appears in the written English record in the 16th century, but is thought to have been used in the dialects of northern England long before that date. "Bang" at first was a verb, following the original Norse meaning, "to strike violently." Gradually "bang" began to be used for any sudden or violent movement, especially assocaited with a loud noise. There are apparently many early references using "bang" when describing a door slaming. Gradually other common references developed such as the sound of gun fire. Another mean also developed, using "bang" to mean fight or beat up.
The word "bang" continued to evolve in modern times. By the 19th century it was used to
denote suddenness or finality in both America and Britain. The first use with hair was associated with horses. In the 19th century, banging was used to describe the practice of clipping or docking a horse's tail straight across. Apparently bang was used as the action was associated with a quick and final way of docking or bobing the tail. A horse with this style of hair was called a "bob-tail". Thus the noun "bang" (or more commonly "bangs") was adopted from the adverviable usage of "bang". Such horse's were called "bangtails". A popular song of the day also referred to a "bob-tail nag". In the late 18th century, as mentioned above, Americans began using the "bangs" to describe cutting people's hair in a straight across fashion.
One HBC reader remembers her dad asking if she had swallowed a firecracker. When she answered, "No, why?" Her dad replied, "Because your hair came out in bangs."
One aspect we do not understand is why the usage is plural. We say bangs not bang even when referring to the cut on one child. The British say frimge and not fringes. The use of the plural for pants and trousers developed because pants first came in simg;e leg garments tied to gether. We do not understand why plural usage developed for bangs.
HBC has collected the following information about terms used for bangs in different countries. We are not sure, however, just what term is used in many other countries. Interestinglly, in several countries the term seems to have originated from the clipping of horses' tails or manes. Please let HBC know what bangs are called in your country.
The term "bangs" appears to have originated in America during the 19th century from the practice of banging or bobing horse tails straight across. It is still widely used.
An English-speaking Canadian reader tells HBC that the American term "bangs" is also used in Canada. Interestingly, he does know what word French Canadians use.
The term "bangs" is also used in Britain. One source indicated that "fringe" used in Britain and that "bangs" is a more recent American import. HBC is unsure at this time as to which term is more common.
A French reader reports that in French there is no special term refering to the bangs hair style. So bangs are referred to, as in England as a "fringe" or in French "frang". "Cheveux courts avec frange" (short hair with fringe) or "cheveux longs avec frange". Perhaps the most common way of describing the hair style in French is "coupe de cheveux au carré" (square hair cut). This style was worn by both boys and girls, sometimes making it difficult to tell if a child was a boy or a girl seeing only the head .
The Germans use "pony" or "ponies" terms of course derived from English. According to a dictionary, the word is used for the hair cut, because a pony has a similar fringed mane.
This would explain its British word "fringe". An older form for "pony" (a juvenile horse) is "powny", Old French "poulenet", French "poulain" is from Latin "pullanus":
"pullus" meaning "foal". Both terms were introduced in German during the 19th century. This of course would be confused in English where a "pony tail" hair cut is a girl's hair style where the hair is shaped into one or two stands that are worn behind the head, much like a "quque" that men wore in the 18th century.
The Dutch refer to it as a "pagekopje" (page boy cut).
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