I heard someone use the term ‘snowdropper’ the other day. Whatever happened to snowdroppers? If you’re aged under 30 you’ve probably never heard the term. I ferreted around on the Interweb to see the meanings other people ascribe to it.

The first webular entry I found was for The Snowdroppers, a bunch of Australian blues musicians who claim to take their name from “Sydney 1920s slang for cocaine addicts”. Eric Partridge and Paul Beale’s A dictionary of slang and unconventional English backs them up, but that’s not the meaning I was after.

I suspect The Snowdroppers wouldn’t be too thrilled about Lawrence Money’s blog of 16th July 2009, in which he wrote “It is common knowledge that sex and homicidal crims keep cranking up the offence to get the same buzz. The murderer often starts with mistreating animals. The rapist may start his warped life as a flasher or snowdropper.” Getting the drift? Enough mucking about – the Urban Dictionary lists two definitions :

1. A person who steals women’s underwear off clothes lines and masturbates into them.

2. A person who steals clothes from a clothesline; Australian usage.

I have no knowledge of or interest in what someone does after he (and oh yes, I’m confident 99.9% of culprits are male) has stolen someone’s underwear, but as far as I’m concerned #2 is on the mark if ‘clothes’ is prefixed with ‘under’.

Why call these low-level perverts and/or potential sex offenders ‘snowdroppers’? Because prior to the 1970s (I think) – unless you worked at the Moulin Rouge or were some kind of courtesan – your underwear was snowy white, and your mother kept it that way in case you were run over by a bus (apparently the only form of transport that posed a threat) and passersby got to see your knickers, the state of which was regarded as a strong indicator of the quality of your upbringing.

I reckon snowdropping was almost a recognised hobby in Australia once upon a time. I’ve even heard it said – can’t recall by whom, but the chances are good it was Phillip Adams – that they were a common feature of Australian suburbia until the mid-1970s. Perhaps snowdropping was a fashion and it’ll be in again someday, like tartan or long black coats …

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