Saturday, February 20, 1999
SPOONING is often used when talking about couples. Spooning refers to a close embrace today but in Wales, some 40 or 50 years ago, a young man did, indeed, literally spoon his young lady. It was a Welsh custom for a young man to make his girl a gift of a carved wooden spoon. Some of these were elaborately done, with intricate stained patterns on the handles and bowls in the shape of flowers and with the initials of the lovers intertwined. A few of these are still found in Welsh homes. Mass production and business enterprise killed this pleasant little custom, taking the spoon out of the spooning.
Spinster today conjures up an image of a dry and crusty woman, unmarried. In the Anglo-Saxon world, a spinster was one who did the spinning. The women of the Anglo-Saxon household would spin in winter, while the fleece was taken from the sheep in summer. It was a recognised fact of that period that no woman was fit to be a wife until she had spun linen for her household. Thus, the task of spinning was usually given to the unmarried women, who were the spinners or spinsters. Similarly, the word bachelor actually had nothing to do with marital status. Bachelor comes from the old French bachelor, which is from the Latin baccalaria, meaning a herd of cows. Cows were looked after by youth who were baccalarius. Since they were young boys, they were mostly unmarried; so the connection between todays bachelor and yesterdays cowherd becomes clear.
Married women take on the husbands surname automatically. The original practice in ancient Rome was slightly different. If Julia married Cicero, she became Julia of Cicero. Whereas today, the of has been dropped, she would be Mrs Julia Cicero.
Patni or wife is a word that takes origin from Pati or husband. Patni is the one who has a relationship with the Pati. Another pair of words for husband and wife is bharya and bharta, meaning one who deserves nurturing (wife) and one who nurtures (husband). Of course, today, there can be a major role-reversal!
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