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Everyone knows what a Jandal is right? Of course, but that statement is as ludicrous as Y-fronts being an attractive form of mens underwear. In reality, the slip-on shoe made from an upside down Y-shaped piece of rubber affixed into soft elongated oval pads is only called a Jandal in New Zealand.

While they are one of the world’s most popular forms of footwear, they are called many wondrously different names depending on where in the world you are. For example, the most common name for them is Flip Flops, used by the English and the Americans. Other names for these backless sandals are Slippers in Hawaii, beach sandals in Japan, Tsinelas in the Philippines, Schlapfen in Austria, Slops in South Africa and of course Thongs in Australia.

With so many names, you might wonder who created the Jandal. Ask that question in whatever country you happen to be in and they will tell you that it was probably the Australians. After all, the Thong is an Australian icon promoted loudly by Kylie Minogue who rode one into the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic games. But the truth be told, they are not Australian.

Jandals, Flip Flops, thongs or whatever you call them were actually first created by a kiwi in New Zealand in the early 1930s. But that’s not entirely true either, in fact only the rubber versions so common in everyone’s wardrobes today were first created in New Zealand. Interestingly, the Japanese have been using different versions for two thousand years, many of them woven and often including wooden bases – think the clog like shoes of the geisha in early Japanese history. Even before this, the Egyptians wore them as far back as 1200BC. So the 75 years they have been around in their rubber form is nothing compared to almost 3200 years of history in Northern Africa.

So as I mentioned earlier, the word Jandal is derived from Japanese Sandals. This seems fairly logical since it is just the merging of the two words, but what about the name Flip-flops? This name is used in both America and Great Britain and stems from the sound that the rubber soles make when they slap against the soles of the feet. And it’s true, try listening to the sound they make when you walk next time and you will find they actually do make the sounds flip flop, flip flop…

That, however, brings some questions to mind. If flip-flop is the sound the shoes make, then how do the Americans come up with the other names for them – Zories or Go-aheads? I’m sure you’d agree with me that they don’t make those sounds, or maybe they do…the Dirty Harry flip-flop –go-a-flipping-head, make my flopping day.

Or… What do they call them if worn by a one legged person? Is it a flip, a flop or does it depend on which leg is missing. Maybe it’s just a flap, who knows…

This brings me to the Australians. They who would also be the most disappointed to know that it was the kiwis that invented one of their national icons. For all of this, our cousins across the ditch call the Jandal the most interesting name…The Thong. Yes that’s correct, the small piece of underwear that is often worn by girls (and sometimes by guys, but we wont go there) is the name our Australian colleagues give this form of sandal.

Thinking about the use of the word Thong, I wonder if there have been any misunderstandings of it in America or Europe. When an Australian guys says… ‘Come on girls, slip on your thongs and let’s get to the beach!’ I wonder how many girls have actually slipped on their g-strings and run off to the beach? It’s bound to happen somewhere surely, just never when I’ve said it!

So that’s Jandals for you. Next time you’re heading to the beach, the mall or just to a friends place, slip on a pair of thongs and flip-flop your way there. Just make sure no one is wearing them, after all, it’s impolite to slip your feet into someone else’s underwear without their permission.

Until next time,
A.J. Key
Ajkey04@yahoo.com.au