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That fringe of hair above your eyes and covering your forehead comes in all sorts of styles. You might wear your bangs wispy or choppy or blunt cut. You might wear them curly or straight, sometimes even swept to the side. But why is that curtain of hair called by such a strange and violent name?
The explanation is simple. The curtain of hair that drapes your forehead above the eyes is called "bangs" because to get the classic version of this look, you cut your hair "bang off" -- all at once, suddenly and dramatically, leaving a well-defined cut line. Kind of like if Emeril was your hair stylist. Kick it up a notch!
Evan Morris, also known as the Word Detective, suggests that the term is related to the phrase "bang-tail," which refers to a style of horse grooming. If you trim a horse's tail straight across, that horse has a bang-tail.
Whatever they're called, bangs have been popular since at least the ninth century, when a gifted Muslim musician and trendsetter named Ziryab introduced something akin to a classic bob via his cosmetology school to the court at Cordoba in Islamic Spain. The introduction of bangs was only one of Ziryab's many fashion innovations -- he also introduced deodorant, toothpaste, eyebrow plucking and the practice of changing clothing styles and colors according to season.
Only in the United States and Canada are they called by the name "bangs." Brits and Australians think the term strange and maybe a little violent. They prefer to use the word "fringes."