The Tanks are coming…Fish tanks, Sherman tanks, scuba tanks, think tanks, oil tanks, even septic tanks are not the harbingers of warm weather and sunshine. Instead, we are talking about colorful cotton tanks – tank tops, the kind you wear to show off your guns or cool your jets.
Wikipedia says that the name “tank top”, part of American English since 1968, derives from the shirt’s resemblance to a tank suit, a one-piece women’s swimming costume with shoulder straps, so called since the 1920s, because it was worn in a “swimming tank”, an obsolete term for a swimming pool.
The tank top seems to be a completely American idiom. In the Queen’s English, a tank top is called a vest. Boys of a certain age wore string vests – sort of a fishnet version of the tank top. They tucked their vests into their pants (aka underwear, undies, briefs, BVDs, but that is an entirely different story).
Another t-shirt/tank top term, used in Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Nigeria and New Zealand, is singlet (in French this might be a singulet?). In the Philippines, when used as an undershirt, the tank top is called a sando. We are guessing that when your wear your sando at the beach sans a coverup, it might simply be called ‘tank top’ or even just ‘Awesome’.
Bing’s translator says tank top is tapa del tanque in Spanish, but translates “singlet” as “camiseta”. This is what we should probably call Kevin Camisa’s (aka Mr. Shirt) kids.
We could not quite figure out the French for tank top: un dessus de réservoir literally means the top of tank, débardeur means docker (but some online reverse translators say this means tank top). “Tanktop” without a space is the same in English and French. German is ein Trägershirt – this seems closer because it has ‘shirt’ in it, but the translator on my computer defines ein Trägershirt as “a carrier herdsman.” Maybe the tank top is the preferred fashion statement of carrier herdmen? A Google search of carrier herdsman produces images of t-shirts. Who knew?!
In American English, a tank top refers to a sleeveless shirt. Something we enjoy wearing in seasonably warm weather.
Are you fluent in a language that has fun with summer clothing? Let us know how you say tank top in your favorite language!