Friday, 24 July 2009

Straitjacket or straightjacket?

Straitjacket is often misrendered as straightjacket.

It's neither intended to make you sit up straight nor to scare you straight, and the wearer's arms are usually twisted up like a pretzel. The 'strait' in 'straitjacket' is the same as in 'dire straits', or, for that matter, the Strait of Gibraltar. Strait is an old-fashioned word for 'narrow' or 'confined', or, in a figurative sense, 'strict' or 'righteous'. The straitjacket was meant to combine both, confining a mental patient for his own good.