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 Feminine occupational terms

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Caro
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PostSubject: Feminine occupational terms   Wed 12 Jun 2013, 09:29

On a language board I asked about feminine occupational endings, most specifically songstress and seamstress which didn’t seem to have a commonly known masculine form. And I mentioned that occupations that had originally not been open to women didn’t have these forms, like doctoress, lawyeress, soldieress. And someone gave the following replies which I thought might be interesting for some of you.

"Doctoress was a word as recently as the nineteenth century. It described the profession of women like Mary Jane Seacole, who combined nursing with general Rest and Recuperation. Although she did at times do nursing for free, she had to earn money; accounts of her career make her sound as much a hotelier aa a nurse. Unlike her contemporary Florence Nightingale, she didn't place her services at the hands of doctors; rather, she worked where qualified doctors were unavailable or unneeded. When the first women graduated from medical schools, there would still be a memory of doctoresses, so it was very important to distinguish the new women doctors.

2. In the books, sleeve notes etc that I read, songster is commonly used to describe Black musicians in the Southern USA who performed secular music of a style that precede the Blues. One songster who many people have heard of is Leadbelly. In reality, Southern Blacks used to make a distinction between songsters, who sang, and musicianers, who played instruments. However, the people we know about were for the most part both: they sand and accompanied themselves of the guitar, or occasionally the banjo or fiddle.

In popular use, Songster was a title once given to song books.

Songster used to be more common as a poetic word for 'singer'. It was for a time extended to mean 'poet'. Ironically, the word was coined in Old English to mean 'female singer'. When it lost that meaning, someone decided to invent songstress.

The word has also been used to denote 'song birds' — a meaning that I'm familiar with from folk songs.

3. Seamster or sempster has a similar history to songster. Originally it meant a female sewer, but came to denote exclusively males. So the word seamstress had to be invented.

4. Spinster began as a word like the others, and was extended to refer to a male 'spinner' — but only very rarely. In this case, the word spinner has been preserved for the occupation, irrespective of whether it's a man or a women, while spinster has acquired its current meaning. The male equivalent would be old bachelor, but the connotations are very different.

5. Other -stere words in Old English didn't make it to the modern vocabulary such as: lǽrestre 'female teacher', hoppestre 'female dancer', lybbestre 'female poisoner, witch'.

More on -ster ...

After the Old English period, there was a North-South divide.

• In the North, -ster was used for males in lost words like demestre a 'judge' and bemestre 'trumpeter'. In Scotland baxter 'baker' and webster 'weaver' lasted as nouns for males until the nineteenth century and live on as surnames. However sewster 'seamstress' denoted a female.

• In the South, -ster was more often used for females in Middle English. There were some lovely words: as well as baxter 'female baker', seamster (still female) and tapster 'woman who draws beer, barmaid', there were such beauties as bellringestre, hordestre 'female treasurer', hotestre 'female commander', brewster 'female brewer', dyester female dyer, litster 'female dyer', throwster 'silk woman', huckster 'female stall-holder, seller of small goods'.

The suffix was even added to French stems: fruitestere, tumbestere/tumblestere, wafrestere corresponding to male fruiter, tumbler, wafrer 'seller of wafers'. However, this use was replaced by the suffix -eresse. Different manuscript copies of the Wyclif Bible use different words: one has chesister, daunster, dwelster, weilster ; others have cheseresse, daunseresse , dwelleresse, weileresse as well as leperesse. Maculines were chester, 'person who puts a corpse into a coffin', daunser presumably a dancer, dweller, weiler presumably a wailer i.e 'mourner' and leper.

• In Modern English after 1600, those -ster words that survived were understood as denoting males and corresponding -stress words were invented for many of them. The OED lists — of course — seamstress, songstress and also backstress, huckstress.

Lawyeress has been used as a word. The OED supplies only two quotes, both from the nineteenth century. In one it means 'wife of a lawyer', in the other it means 'female lawyer'. And it cites a couple of uses of sailoress in the 1890's for women in the crews of racing yachts. These may have been rather flippant coinings, but Shakespeare and Fletcher were quite serious when they wrote

Honoured Hypolita,
Most dreaded Amazonian, ...
........................................... Soldieress
That equally canst poise sternness with pity ...

And Sir Richard Burton the explorer wrote seriously

In Dahomie the soldieresses have two titles.
The suffix -ess also has an interesting entry in the OED.

• In Middle English, we took words straight from rench along with their French -esse suffix, such as: countess, duchess, hostess, lioness, mistress, princess. Others had feminine -esse alternating with masculine suffixes, such as: †devoureresse, enchantress, †espyouresse, sorceress.

• Some English words were formed analogously with an English stem and French suffix, such as: dwelleresse, sleeress (female slayer) and goddess.

• From the sixteenth century, -ess became an English suffix (replacing -ester) which could be attached to all sorts of stems.

• However, it wasn't used in English to denote female animals. Lioness and tigress are taken from French.

• Corresponding to masculines in -tor, the feminine was -tress (corresponding to -trice from Latin)

• When -ess was added to -er, the -er- was dropped. Earlier governeresse shortened to governess — cf adultereress catereress, sorcereress, conquereress, murdereress, adventureress.

• DOCTORESS REVISITED
The word used for women like Mary Jane Seacole was a temporary invention. Although ultimately abolished in favour of woman doctor, the word doctress existed in English for at least four centuries — often as an academic title. It was also used humorously for a 'doctor's wife' — something that Modern German does quite seriously with Frau Doktor — or even 'doctor's daughter'.

POSTSCRIPT ADDED LATER
I missed out an interesting story from the OED. In the seventeenth century, there was a fashion for adding -ess to verb stems, with results such as confectioness, entertainess, instructess. It didn't catch on."

And someone else added the comment: “There was a good article in Saturday's (London) Times by Oliver Kamm. He was saying that the paper used the term "authoress" as a derogatory term to indicate a female author of poor writing. Thus, The Times would refer to, say, Virginia Woolf as an author but would identify, say, Pippa Middleton as an authoress! He was saying that it's very unfair to use such a 'code', partly because it suggests elitism (i.e., only those 'in the know' would decode the term used as the paper intended, but also because there's no other profession in which such a qualitative distinction is made; and, in any case, there's no concomitant code for male writers, who will always be referred to as authors regrdless of the quality of their work.”
[i]
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Tue 18 Jun 2013, 13:56

Widower is unusual in the masculine from being derived from the feminine.
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Thu 20 Jun 2013, 00:44

I wonder why there seems to have been a word for widow long before widower.  If I am reading my Shorter Oxford correctly, it says widow dates back to Old England (and European languages before that) and widower not till later Middle English.  I wonder slightly if there, as today, were more widows around, but I should have thought with so many deaths in and around childbirth, there would be more widowers.  But perhaps it is that women whose husbands died had a quite different status from a wife, whereas the status of men without their wives didn't change much at all. 

It's unusual in everything for men to take on women's things.  Women wear trousers; men don't wear dresses. Girls play boys' games, how many boys play netball? Parents give their daughters boys' names, boys don't get given girls' ones.  In just recent times, girls are called Cameron, Jordan, Riley (in most of its permutations), Casey, Ashley, Morgan, Billie, Bailey.
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Sat 15 Jul 2017, 19:05

Quote :
• In Middle English, we took words straight from rench along with their French -esse suffix, such as: countess, duchess, hostess, lioness, mistress, princess. Others had feminine -esse alternating with masculine suffixes, such as: †devoureresse, enchantress, †espyouresse, sorceress.

I went to meet a bloke this afternoon who had promised me that he held in his hardware shop a hard-to-come-by wheel brace nut with 1/2 inch socket which I need for a rusty old sportster I'm doing up. Anyway, on the drive over to this blokey encounter I (obviously) had Weekend Woman's Hour on the car radio and caught an interesting discussion with Dr Amy Erickson of Robinson College, Cambridge on the origins of the formal titles 'Mr', 'Mrs', 'Miss' and 'Ms' etc:

BBC Radio 4 - Weekend Woman's Hour (about 31:16 in)

It seems that the conventions surrounding these terms are not as old as might be thought and have continually been in a state of flux with meanings and usage changing significantly over the centuries. More from Amy Erickson on this topic can be read here:

Mistresses and marriage; or, a short history of the Mrs
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Sat 15 Jul 2017, 20:19

Ah, but did they discuss Mx?
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Sat 15 Jul 2017, 21:44

@Vizzer wrote:
Quote :
• In Middle English, we took words straight from rench along with their French -esse suffix, such as: countess, duchess, hostess, lioness, mistress, princess. Others had feminine -esse alternating with masculine suffixes, such as: †devoureresse, enchantress, †espyouresse, sorceress.

I went to meet a bloke this afternoon who had promised me that he held in his hardware shop a hard-to-come-by wheel brace nut with 1/2 inch socket which I need for a rusty old sportster I'm doing up. Anyway, on the drive over to this blokey encounter I (obviously) had Weekend Woman's Hour on the car radio and caught an interesting discussion with Dr Amy Erickson of Robinson College, Cambridge on the origins of the formal titles 'Mr', 'Mrs', 'Miss' and 'Ms' etc:

BBC Radio 4 - Weekend Woman's Hour (about 31:16 in)

It seems that the conventions surrounding these terms are not as old as might be thought and have continually been in a state of flux with meanings and usage changing significantly over the centuries. More from Amy Erickson on this topic can be read here:

Mistresses and marriage; or, a short history of the Mrs


Yes, Vizzer, it was quite the same overhere (Belgium) as I read it from your last link...
When I was young (the fifties), one had to say "Madame" (in that time the Dutch "Mevrouw" wasn't yet in use) for a married woman....A bit the same as in German with the name then of the man, husband...I had always difficulties with it in German, while one couldn't say simply: "Good morning Madame" because you had to know the name of her husband, as "Good morning Frau" don't exist...for instance: "Good morning Frau Merkel" and not "Good morning Frau Kasner" Wink ...
For a young unmarried woman one had to say: "Juffrouw"...when one couldn't distinguish between an older and a younger it was best to say: "Juffrouw" while it gave the older ones an appearance of younsters, with which they were pleased...
Don't say "Juffrouw" to an apparent older lady while they can get offended...
Although we had to say "Juffrouw" in the nunschool to two old spinsters, who assisted the nuns...
In our dialect we said in the time to old spinsters: "oude jonge dochters" (old young daugthers)
But in our time it is better (women rights I suppose) Up to 18 years it is Miss and above it is Mrs...
And if you know the surname the better...and people tend to use more and more the maiden name...as more an more people are living together without marriage (in sin as the Church says)
Although even that gets complicated as the couple can use the surname of the husband for a child (as usual up to now), but also of the mother, or even of both Wink ...Good morning Frau Merkel-Kasner... Wink Wink Wink

Kind regards from your friend Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Mon 17 Jul 2017, 10:01

We'll shortly have a Doctoress Who:

Jodie Whittaker
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Mon 17 Jul 2017, 10:24

Being a widow is bad enough, but being described as one's husband's "relict" is very depressing. Do men ever get called relicts?

@Caro wrote:
 But perhaps it is that women whose husbands died had a quite different status from a wife, whereas the status of men without their wives didn't change much at all.


A widow became a "femme sole" - sometimes written as feme sole. It was actually a pretty desirable thing to be - it meant independence. Margaret Beaufort, who was married several times and who was an enormously wealthy woman, insisted, when her son became King, that she should, even though a wife, be treated as a "femme sole" - a demand that was actually sanctioned by Parliament. This fierce determination to be recognised as a "femme sole" was a lesson perhaps not lost on Ms Beaufort's most famous great granddaughter.



feme sole: a woman alone, literally.  In law, an adult woman who is not married, or one who is acting on her own regarding her estate and property, acting on her own rather than as a feme covert. It is also spelled femme sole.

A woman with the status of feme sole was thus able to make legal contracts and sign legal documents in her own name. She could own property and dispose of it in her own name.

She also had the right to make her own decisions about her education and could make decisions about how to dispose of her own wages.

Example

In the last half of the 19th century, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony headed the National Woman's Suffrage Association which also published a newspaper, Anthony had to sign contracts for the organization and paper, and Stanton could not.  Stanton, a married woman, was a feme covert. and Anthony, mature and single, was a feme sole, so under law, Anthony was able to sign contracts, and Stanton was not.  Stanton's husband would have had to sign in Stanton's stead.
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Mon 17 Jul 2017, 11:08

Oh yes, relict is horrible. On maps of historic land usage relict means land that was once cultivated but is now abandoned.
Go figure.........
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Mon 17 Jul 2017, 16:17

According to one source I read (awaits deluge of contradiction) the term 'lady' meant the 'maker of dough.' Remarking this to an en-nobled ambassador he thought it  had moved on to mean the spending of dough.

My husband only uses the word lady - not woman. But he is a gentle man. Contrary to what might be thought here, we never quarrel but have many differing opinions about almost everything..... but we share laughter...... and all the chores and no one rulz.
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PostSubject: Re: Feminine occupational terms   Mon 17 Jul 2017, 16:28

Priscilla,

Re yours, "... we never quarrel but have many differing opinions about almost everything..... but we share laughter...... and all the chores and no one rulz."

Congratulations, it seems to me that you have the best of a solid relationship, at least more sound than those I ever attempted.
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