The bikini and facekini
The latest fashion trend to hit beaches has been raising eyebrows – but you wouldn’t know it, since the eyebrows (along with the rest of the face) can’t be seen behind the facekini, which draws its name from the popular swimwear bikini. First reaching popularity in 2012 in China, this balaclava-like stretchy nylon mask is intended to protect the face from tanning and UV-rays (or jellyfish and crabs, depending upon whom you ask) – and is now growing in popularity around the globe.
How old is the bikini?
Whether or not you want to wear them on the beaches, the word facekini is of interest. Unsurprisingly, it relates to the word bikini (a two-piece swimming costume for women). The name bikini was chosen by French mechanical engineer Louis Réard. According to current Oxford English Dictionary (OED) research, bikini first appeared in the French magazine Le Monde Illustré in 1947, and its first appearance in the English language is believed to have been in the June of the following year, in the American newspaper Newsweek.
A false friend
You might assume that the bi- of bikini relates to the two-piece aspect of the costume – and this certainly seems to be the premise of the related words monokini (a one-piece swimming costume) and trikini (a swimming costume consisting of three main areas of fabric).
However, bi– here is a false friend. The bikini is actually named after an atoll in the Marshall Islands called Bikini, famously used by the US between 1946 and 1958 as a site for testing nuclear weapons. The garment’s name was chosen, rather fancifully, because of the supposed ‘explosive’ effect it created. The atoll’s name (Pikinni in Marshallese) actually translates as ‘coconut place’.
The future of the facekini
Other adaptations of the bikini in our dictionaries (along with monokini and trikini) include minikini (a small bikini) and tankini (a combination of bikini bottom and tank top). Watch this space: if the word facekini continues to grow in popularity – whether or not the garment itself becomes a must-wear beach accessory – then it might just end up in an Oxford Dictionary.