Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One who (usually as a repeated practice) beats one’s wife, or a husband prone to violence
  • n. A kind of sleeveless shirt, often but not exclusively worn as an undershirt.
  • n. Stella Artois, a brand of lager beer.

Etymologies

From wife +‎ beater. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • About a month ago, around my birthday, I used my "birthday discount" join the "Insider's Club" and you, too, will save like me! at Loehmanns and one of my purchases was a Romeo & Juliet Couture double-dyed or tie-died "wifebeater".

    Fashion

  • He was wearing a grey A-shirt (more commonly called a 'wifebeater') today.

    waterdiluted Diary Entry

  • Chogyi Jake had skipped his usual sand-colored linen shirt for the kind of white sleeveless T-shirt my big brother used to call a wifebeater when our parents weren’t around.

    Vicious Grace

  • Yup, thats a wifebeater, a gray mullet, a handlebar mustache, as well as a cigarette tucked during a back of Grandpas ear.

    Archive 2009-12-01

  • I can only imagine the older, wiser Claudio Fragasso — the director of Troll 2 — lurking in the shadows in a well-worn wifebeater, calmly drinking a 40, as all of these young “best worst gangsters” step to the scene.

    Weekend Weirdness: We Catch Up with Best Worst Movie Director Michael Stephenson. New Trailer, New Showings, New Snacks | /Film

  • Elizabeth had this grey tank top she would sleep in, but I think it was really just a wifebeater of mine that she accidentally shrunk.

    Pectoralis Minor

  • Mars came into the room in black pajama pants and a black wifebeater, sleep still hovering around his eyes.

    Larger Than Lyfe

  • An unambiguously Hispanic late 20s dude in a wifebeater types on the keyboard of a white iMac, headphones on.

    Monkeytown excerpt 5

  • They just disappeared off the shelves, I never even got my wifebeater wearin 'Logan!

    Fake owl, real owl

  • But last year he founded his own rockabilly group Bad Lupo Grande and his two genres have seeped together in the wash like red socks and a wifebeater vest to make Hot As Hell – the world's first rockabilly/techno crossover hit.

    This week's new singles

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Comments

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  • It was probably around the time someone shot the f*cker. It wasn't me.

    July 26, 2011

  • That's so weird. First, my introduction to Stella Artois came from a woman who was living with me for a while when she was hiding out from an abusive partner. I'm not sure whether she knew the Streetcar Named Desire connection. Second, for the past couple weeks, I've been reading A Confederacy of Dunces, in which the main character lives in New Orleans, adores the philosopher Boethius, gets in arguments with nearly everyone he meets, and is occasionally confronted by mass transit bearing the word "Desire." And third, whenever I hear this word, I'm reminded of the fallacy in a logical argument where you try to trick someone by asking a complex question, the example for which is usually "When did you stop beating your wife?" 

    Blafferty: Thanks for finding this discussion.

    Bilby: When did you stop being insulted by Nobel laureates?  

    July 26, 2011

  • Fascinating conversation here.
    I am adding this word to my bilby adventures list because of the lack of explanation, in hopes that he will return to the scene of the crime.

    July 26, 2011

  • That would be telling.

    May 9, 2009

  • Bilby, how can you drop a comment like "insulted by Nobel laureates" and then not mention who?

    May 9, 2009

  • *hugs chained_bear*

    May 8, 2009

  • Gangerh - I'd always assumed exactly that - hence my astonishment at the very plausible explanation provided here by rolig.

    May 8, 2009

  • C_b, I am really sorry to hear about your horrific experience. It is all too common. There was a time, and not very long ago, when the idea of husbands beating their wives provided a staple source of humor ("One of these days, Alice! Pow! Right to the moon!" says Ralph, as the audience explodes in laughter), but that was when the real violence was kept behind the closed doors women and children were always just happening to run into. Making light of such things, as in pseudo-clever slang terms for T-shirts and beer, is probably a way of distracting ourselves from the terrible reality. But I don't see how anyone with an awareness of the power of words can use such terms gleefully.

    May 8, 2009

  • Moving slightly off-topic here; because it's far too late on Friday night for anything that requires thinking; bilby - you were insulted by a Nobel laureate??

    May 8, 2009

  • Within the sound of Bow Bells, strifebeater, I guess.

    May 8, 2009

  • Interesting, gangerh. The equivalent type of beer in the U.S. is probably Budweiser or Milwaukee's Best (a.k.a. "the Beast"), though that doesn't have the name connection to the Tennessee Williams play. Stella Artois here is considered something of a poncey (sp?) beer (it being "furrin" and all), so it's interesting the different connotation in the UK.

    Being hit by your mate, particularly on a regular basis, particularly over the long term in which you turn into a robot, is a rather different experience than your most unfortunate ones, bilby. Especially if one has children. Sorry, I just don't see the connection. For one thing, though it was many years ago, I will never be able to laugh about my experience. I'll take any and every chance to denounce domestic violence and violence against women, and this word just isn't funny to me for that reason. That's not to say it isn't the source of interesting conversation, and like I said, my intention is not to stop the conversation. I'll just (hopefully gracefully) bow out of this one.

    May 8, 2009

  • These extracts are from Wikipedia:

    In the UK, a lower ABV version is available called Stella Artois 4%. This variant was launched to compete alongside fellow Inbev lager Beck's Vier and to address negative associations of the brand;

    During 2007, the "reassuringly expensive" slogan was dropped, and the word "Stella" has been avoided in the advertisements. This has been seen as a reaction to the lager's perceived connection with aggression and binge-drinking in the United Kingdom, where it is nicknamed "wife beater".

    May 8, 2009

  • I suspect that few people here in England know of the trail from Brando's undershirt, his screen wife's name and a pint or so of Artois.
    The more likely understanding, I believe, lies in the alcoholic strength and the quaffableness of Stella Artois. While being a premium strength pilsner, it is at the same time as quickly drinkable as a milder strength session ale. Without realising, it's possible to get drunk more quickly and lose control and all the other things associated with drunkenness, including a capacity for arguing and fighting. And who's at home to take the brunt of it?

    May 8, 2009

  • I don't find this word funny or repugnant (I don't find any word in itself repugnant), but it is a pretty interesting word, because of the way it mediates pop culture to appropriate a horrible thing to a trivial end - and I adore the capacity language has for that kind of flimflammery.

    May 8, 2009

  • Personally I've been shot at, mugged, robbed, bitten by poisonous animals and insulted by Nobel laureates. None of these experiences were particularly grand divertissement at the time, yet I find jokes about such events quite entertaining now. That's not to make light of c_b's experiences, about which she is of course entitled to her own feelings.

    I think it's quite funny - and indeed in keeping with the incongruity fundamental to humour - that humans can attach such a loaded term as wifebeater to mundane items like an item of clothing and small beer.

    May 8, 2009

  • I guess, having been abused, I don't feel comically distant from a person who beats women. *shrugs* ... Nor can I feel that such a person is anything less than a real monster.

    I can see how Brando's character (actually Tennessee Williams's character) can be thought of as an extreme example—the acting style of the period does seem ludicrous nowadays and easy to laugh at—but that kind of behavior (including rape) is, in real life, so common as to be far from ludicrous.

    But don't let me spoil anyone's fun.

    May 8, 2009

  • The perception was that nerdy kids wore them, and hitched them up way high, and hence were in danger of being strangled by their own vestments.

    May 8, 2009

  • So....what's a Boston?

    or is it merely what the BS wore himself?

    May 8, 2009

  • Now that I think about it, white Y-front underpants were referred to, back in my school days, as Boston stranglers.

    May 8, 2009

  • Budgie smugglers?

    May 8, 2009

  • For me, the comic element comes from the distance one feels from the creature 'wifebeater', an outlandish almost-monster. For one, it's been quite a few years since the Streetcar Named Desire era. Moreover, Brando's Stanley was so over the top, so bestial as to be ludicrous.

    I have this itchy, elusive memory of another clothing word that contains gruesome social significance. help me out here.

    May 8, 2009

  • I sympathize, Rt. Although I find the development of this word's use fascinating, and I am happy to find any reason to research pictures of the young Marlon Brando in a tight-fitting, torn, and rain-drenched T-shirt, I am disturbed by the commercial callousness of this word. I was shocked to find many websites where clothing companies were selling these tank tops as "wifebeaters", often with young female models sporting them with a smile. I find it hard to imagine a young woman saying, unwincingly, to another young woman, "I found a great wifebeater at Macy's today!" But I'm sure it happens all the time. Can you imagine, say, Ray-Ban selling a particlar style of sunglasses as "childmolesters"? "We offer you an extensive sellection of elegant childmolesters!" It's a sickening thought, but no more so than companies proudly selling "wifebeaters".

    May 8, 2009

  • Perhaps because it doesn't have a National Month, 'tee?

    May 8, 2009

  • Why am I not finding this page amusing?

    May 8, 2009

  • So what does he wear when he beats her? (Sorry, gangerh, I couldn't resist.)

    May 8, 2009

  • I don't think Brando beats my wife in a wet t-shirt.

    May 7, 2009

  • Thank you, rolig. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. For beer, I mean.

    I suspect it was called a wifebeater partly because some of the people who wear them with no shirt over them (they are, after all, underwear) look like thugs who might beat their wives...

    I don't like thinking about this much. *goes back to thinking about Brando's muscles in a wet t-shirt*

    May 6, 2009

  • Correction: Brando wasn't actually wearing a tank top in the movie. But it was a snug white T-shirt with very short sleeves that showed off his fit form and biceps. But Brando's look and performance, which completely redefined the notion of the male sex symbol, did wonders for the allure of the humble white undershirt (especially when it was torn and drenched as he wailed in the rain), and I expect it did influence the name of the tank top.

    May 6, 2009

  • No need to bellow. Here you go. *hands C_b a beer* And come on in out of the rain, f'godsake.

    May 6, 2009

  • *stands in rain* Stelllllllllaaaaaaaaaaa!

    May 6, 2009

  • My informants were two girls from Bristol. They used it in a general sense, though the Stella connection is there. Yep, I like :-)

    May 6, 2009

  • gangerh likes this linking!

    May 6, 2009

  • Wow! Cool. I never knew that either.

    May 6, 2009

  • Ha! That's excellent. I never knew.

    May 6, 2009

  • A nice case of double metonymy: The white tank top worn by Marlon Brando as the violent Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire became so identified with Brando in this role that, in the US, it became known as a "wifebeater". Brando as Kowalski also became famous for crying, "Stella!" (his wife's name); hence the wifebeater tank top became connected with the name Stella, as in the beer.

    May 6, 2009

  • I like Stella Artois!

    May 6, 2009

  • Re: bilby's comment: in my experience this is slang specifically for Stella Artois, which is not cheap, and only arguably nasty, but is a fairly strong and gassy lager.

    May 6, 2009

  • American slang - a white sleeveless undershirt.

    May 5, 2009

  • British slang - cheap, nasty beer.

    May 5, 2009

  • The garment.

    December 31, 2006