So I've heard this expression in the "Trailer Park Boys" TV show (taking place in Canada). According to the context I understand that it probably means someone grumpy, who's complaining a lot.

However I'd like to know where this expression come from: is it some sort of Canadian idiom, is it a cultural reference, or something else?

My research has shown that this is a "common" expression (but not popular), since I get a few hits like a Youtube video with this title, but nothing in classical and slang dictionaries. Concerning the context, a people "bitching around" is called "Mr growly pants", I don't know much more.

  • 3
    Very often people are creative. They make things up. It's takes a usage like "fancy pants" and substitutes the word growly (angry) for fancy and adds Mr. Children are sometimes addressed by Mr something or other when parents are fed up. Mr. Know-it-all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


The pants in a [something-y] pants is just a way of turning an adjectival description into a noun.

The more common phrase, one that has an actual dictionary definition, is smarty-pants:

"If you give people the impression you're a smarty-pants, that's no good for sure."
— Al Gore

So, a smarty-pants is somebody who is smart (or trying to be), and the expression is used in a kind of derogatory or sarcastic sense. ("Oh, look who's so smart . . .")

A growly pants would, similarly, be turning the adjective growly into a noun phrase so that it can describe the person. (In this case, it's somebody who growls—not somebody who is grumpy or, necessarily, complains a lot.)

The additional use of Mr. does the same thing. It could just as easily be Mr. Growly, Ms. growly pants or, to make up a different noun phrase, Mr. eats-a-lot (for somebody who is known to eat all the time).

Also according to Merriam-Webster, although it doesn't give an actual source, it says:

The first known use of smarty-pants was in 1932.

No doubt other uses of [something-y] pants come from simply changing the adjective from the well-known smarty (in context) to something else.

Note that there is also fancy-pants, which Merriam-Webster says originated seven years later, in 1939.

  • While I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses it, if someone's being crabby I sometimes call them "crabby-pants." :)
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 21:01

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