Word Geek

I find this creepy:

The word WIVE can be used as a verb. It’s meaning:

wive
verb, wived, wiv·ing.
–verb (used without object) 1. to take a wife; marry.
–verb (used with object) 2. to take as wife; marry.
3. to provide with a wife.

But the word husband is not really correspondingly creepy:

husband
tr.v. hus·band·ed, hus·band·ing, hus·bands

To use sparingly or economically; conserve: husband one’s energy.
Archaic To find a husband for.

Notice that the primary definitions of WIVE are to take a wife. Something you DO to SOMEONE else. But to HUSBAND someone is to find a husband for. Which has a much softer ring to it. The person involved is not being done TO, but done FOR.

I’m playing Scrabble. Can you tell? Now, back to work.

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~ by realsupergirl on July 19, 2007.

16 Responses to “Word Geek”

  1. Um, you weren’t flipping through the dictionary while playing Scrabble WITH ME, were you?

    “Wife” is just a bad word all around. I get really pissed off when people use it in relation to me. It’s like, uh, dumbshits, I haven’t been using that word to define myself or my spouse. Where did you get the idea that you should up and use it?

  2. Yes, this just confirmed for me why I don’t use WIFE, either.

    And for the record, I looked it up because played it and I wanted to see what it meant.

  3. What about “husbandry”?
    1.
    a.The act or practice of cultivating crops and breeding and raising livestock; agriculture.
    b.The application of scientific principles to agriculture, especially to animal breeding.
    2. Careful management or conservation of resources; economy.

  4. What about “husbandry”?
    1.
    a.The act or practice of cultivating crops and breeding and raising livestock; agriculture.
    b.The application of scientific principles to agriculture, especially to animal breeding.
    2. Careful management or conservation of resources; economy.

  5. What about it, sweetie?

  6. HEEEEEEEEEEE

    Does this involve a turkey baster?

  7. Bwahaha. It BETTER have only been for such purposes.

    Big Brother is watching your dictionary. He also knows when you look up sex words and giggle at them.

  8. There are reasons language changes. Fortunately, to wive and to husband have all but left our tongues. Here, I guess that I kind of take kaphine’s approach. Verbs sometimes find balance (or humor?) in their nominal forms. So, since one who practices ‘midwifery’ is a ‘midwife,’ is one who practices ‘animal husbandry’ an ‘animal husband?’

  9. The word wife is still laden with misogyny, however. And the archaic definitions of the verb form of the word just seem to capture that. To call someone a “wife” connotes property, chattel, secondary in a way that to call someone a “husband” does not. For that reason, I’m not confortable calling anyone my wife or being anyone’s wife.

    Personally, I like “spouse” and its gendered Spanish equivalent, “esposa.”

  10. There’s no denying this – or your feeling about it, which is more important. In Old English (but not in Middle English) wer- and wyf- were the gendered elements added to the neuter “man.” I suppose this is where we get ‘werewolf,’ (but not ‘wyfwolf!’). “Esposa” sounds better, anyway. When I was living in Mexico, it kind of confused me, though. It could just as easily refer to one’s girlfriend. That, of course, made me question my catagories – a good thing.

    In Hebrew, there is a parallel problem. Wife is אישה isha = woman. Fine, but it’s just the feminine version of man, איש ish. ‘Husband,’ however, is בעל baal = master, owner, demi-god. That generally doesn’t fly, in name or in practice, with any self-respecting Israeli under 60.

  11. I did not know that baal was the Hebrew word for husband. Yech. I’m surprised that wasn’t changed with Modern Hebrew.

  12. People experimented with “זה האיש שלי” “zeh ha-Ish sheli” = this is my man. What seems to have mostly replaced ba’al is בת-זוג / בן-זוג bat-zug or ben-zug which basically means ‘partner’ but, like esposa, doesn’t indicate any legal status. A zug is a pair. Zug-garbaiyim are a pair of socks. Bat is Aramaic and Hebrew for daughter (bat mitzva) and ben is Hebrew for son (bar in Aramaic). Some people also say “partner” or “partnereet.” Hebrew is a gendered language. It’s hard to get around that.

  13. Yes, I know how gendered Hebrew is — as is Spanish (esposa/esposo) — but ba’al carries all sorts of other baggage beyond just being gendered. Sort of like wife.

    I like ben-zug and bat-zug.

  14. I’ve got a husband and I’m a wife, but I do prefer partner when I describe us. It fits our relationship better, seems more equal and respectful.

  15. I’ve got a husband and I’m a wife, but I do prefer partner when I describe us. It fits our relationship better, seems more equal and respectful.

  16. So I’m two weeks behind in my FL, so what? 😉

    Anyway, I have used “wife” purely for clarification…people are dumb and still assume that my spouse must be male.

    This happened at work once just after we’d gotten married and the new head of government knew that I was married but not to whom…

    Him: So what does your husband do?
    Me: Uh, my wife, actually.
    Him: I AM SO SORRY (and then he fell all over himself apologizing more for making that assumption, especially since he’s been so active in African-American civil rights issues).

    He’s really a nice guy; he just spoke without thinking.

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