I omitted several terms, from Rip Van Winkle, that were saved for this week's theme, "Domineering Women".
We'll use the first to end Rip's tale. In the two decades he slept, the country has had a revolutionary war, and (perhaps more importantly) his hen-pecking wife has died.
petticoat government – rule by, or undue predominance or influence of women in domestic, political, or public life
Freud wrote that America's attempt to ban alcoholic beverages was "obviously under the influence of petticoat government." (The Future of an Illusion, in The Freud Reader) But another author gives a different perspective on female rule:
– Jean Plaidy, Victoria Victorious: The Story of Queen Victoria
Huh. They are implying this is a bad thing?
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
A little more petticoat government and perhaps countries would not so easily become involved in wars that bring bereavement and tragedy to so many families.
Yeah, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Maggie Thatcher, and Benazir Bhutto were all dainty little petticoatians who abhorred war and made peace ... sheesh.
—Ceci n'est pas un seing.
harpy – 1. a grasping, unscrupulous woman 2. a shrewish woman
[from monsters in Greek myth, half woman and half bird of prey
– Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus, I Hate You, Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality
Is today's word entirely negative? See quote.
termagant – an or overbearing, quarrelsome or nagging woman
[an eponym: from the made-up name of a Muslim deity in medieval morality plays. Some say that that name derives from Italian Trivagante ‘thrice-wandering’.]
Fire can destroy – or it can forge steel. A special joy in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind is to see how the fires of war change Scarlett. Her sisters cannot grow; they remain flighty frivolous southern belles, and are destroyed. But Scarlett, under adversity, becomes a strong, determined woman.
Here is a key scene:
. . ."You just mention Mother's name once more, Suellen O'Hara, and I'll slap you flat," cried Scarlett. "Mother worked harder than any darky on this place and you known it, Miss Fine Airs!"
. . ."She did not! … And you can't make me. I'll tell Papa on you and he won't make me work!
. . ."Don't you dare go bothering Pa with any of our troubles!" cried Scarlett … .
. . .Carreen … had been silent, a little dazed since she came back to consciousness and found Ellen gone, Scarlett a termagant, the world changed and unceasing labor the order of the day. It was not in Carreen's delicate nature to adjust herself to change. She simply could not comprehend what had happened and she went about Tara like a sleepwalker, doing exactly what she was told.
– Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
Whether a word is negative or positive depends upon the conjugation, viz.:
"I'm resolute, you're stubborn, he's pigheaded."
"Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow."
virago – a domineering, violent, or bad-tempered woman.
[Latin, 'heroic- or warrior-woman,' from vir 'man'. Used as the name given by Adam to Eve in the Vulgate (Latin) version of the Bible]
– Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
Perhaps these term reflect a pervasive contempt for women in older England. One is struck by the casual barbarity women suffered at the hands of their husbands and their male neighbors. Consider the branks (developed in the late 1500s) and the cucking stool (about three centuries older).
– Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders
cucking stool – a tool for punishing scolds and others. It was chair (often with a hole like a toilet seat, suitable for that use). The victim was tied and either set out for public ridicule or ducked in a river or pond.
[cuck "to defecate" (may also include urinate), from Old Norse kuka "feces".]
[Also known as a trebucket, but that term has further meanings.]
– Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair
The village is a huddle of small houses, quite small, in fact, with no more than two rooms, a door, two windows, a chimney seldom. … At the nearest pond, but not in sight, is the cucking stool for women offenders, the wantons, the walking morts, the scolds.
– Thomas B. Costain, The Conquering Family
(mort – old term for a promiscuous female or a prostitute)
I can't wait for the "Domineering Men" theme!
Ya know, you got me thinking, z. Surely you are right. Yet, I'd always thought that women leaders would be more peaceful. Perhaps I am wrong. I do think women tend to be less violent and more peaceful (am I nuts?). Given that stance (and surely it could be wrong), maybe the variable is that those who pursue powerful positions, be they men or women, tend to be more aggressive.
Today’s word, a rare one, is an eponym. It is the name of Socrates’ wife, who is traditionally described as shrewish and scolding. One story is that she became so angry with her husband that she threw a bucket of washing water on him. Socrates commented philosophically, "After thunder comes rain."
Xanthippe or Xantippe – an ill-tempered woman
– Kenneth Anger, Hollywood Babylon: The Legendary Underground Classic of Hollywood's Darkest and Best Kept Secrets
Perhaps being named "yellow horse" (xanthi + hippo) might take its toll on one's good nature.
I am familiar with xanthosis, which means a yellow discoloration beneath the skin.
How is Xanthippe pronounced? I like it! And I am surely a Xanthippe tonight, with the Cubs losing and all!
harridan – a bossy or belligerent woman (typically an old one)
– Washington Post, Dec. 10, 1996
Academic departments tend to be … run by people who grew up when smart women became teachers or nurses. … there is something just wrong about a woman sitting in a faculty discussion. A woman who disagrees with the established ideas is a troublemaker. A sloppy, foulmouthed contrarian man can be a brilliant maverick; a sloppy, foulmouthed contrarian woman is just a harridan. Those idealized brilliant loners, those colorful professors with the messy offices and the drinking problems and the much-quoted epigrams: They're all guys.
– San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 12, 2001
Yes, I think we've discussed this in other threads here on Wordcraft. Any ideas why?
English has just as many terms for objectifying men, but they all derive from words for penis: dick, prick, dork, wanker, weiner, tool, schmuck...
Count your blessings.
I don't think there are nearly as many objectifying terms for men, but we could take a census.
That Eye Weekly piece was excellent. But I thought a banshee was a male warrior of some sort?
As an opinionated, and I like to think, strong woman, I find it frightening to read the violence of the reactions to temperamental women expressed in the earlier texts. Yikes!
We may be more civilized and enlightened these days, but the underlying feelings still remain. Where I work, the women are always complaining among themselves that the men never listen to us and don't threat us respectfully unless we are very deferential--even though the men put on a good show of being non-discriminatory. Often that is not respect; it is patronization. You only have to look at the salary stats we file with the federal government each year to see that the men get 20%- to 30% more respect than the women.
Still, we women are as harsh about other women as the men if the person in question is obnoxious. We have one younger woman who is always making impertinent, inappropriate remarks about others, and we have a few names for her, like shrew. Likewise, the older woman who habitually lectures us at meetings about everything that is wrong and that we are doing wrong, in her opinion. So what is it about our cultures that makes this attitude toward "domineering" women the norm, whereas in other cultures, more primitive ones, women are dominant and men are subordinate? I wonder what words they have for men in such places?
banshee is from Irish Gaelic bean sídhe "woman of the fairies". bean "woman" is related to queen.
neveu, I don't think there is any question that there are more insulting words for women than for men. The very word that Wordmatic mentioned, "shrew," is always used for a woman. I looked back on some threads where we've talked about men and women and really didn't find what I wanted, in terms of the differences in numbers of insulting words. However, in our men vs. women thread, look at the difference between the descriptors of "lady" and "gentleman." I had forgotten about that discussion.
I have always worked in a field where women predominate. I can tell you that there is an advantage to having men to work with, too. I know that I will sound like I am generalizing and like I am biased against women, but sometimes don't you think women can get too petty? I remember once I had wanted a faculty member to be a part of a committee I was chairing, and one of my colleagues said, "Absolultely not! 20 years ago she blah, blah, blah, and I will never work with her again!" The men I've worked with will get angry, we'll have words, and that's that. The women will hold grudges for the rest of their lives.
On the other hand, let's come up with a few more insults for men!
Possibly, but I'd like to see numbers rather than mere assertion. In any case, my point was about the quality of the words rather than quantity. Our language seems to make many fine distinctions between difficult women, but difficult men are just assholes, pricks and bastards.
We make fine distinctions for subjects we know and think a lot about.