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LADY

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LADY

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:50 pm

• lady •


Pronunciation: lay-dee • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. The female head of household, as the lady of the house. 2. A woman of considerable importance or of high esteem, as ladies and lords, Lady Windermere. 3. A polite form of address to a fashionable woman: right this way, ladies (also milady).

Notes: My wife, when she takes our granddaughters to tea, always admonishes them to be ladylike, one of many compounds based on lady. Others include ladybird (a type of beetle), ladyfinger (a type of pastry), and lady-killer, not a killer at all, but an extremely handsome man. The only derivatives this word provides is an abstract noun ladyhood, and ladyly (or ladily) "ladylike", serving as both an adjective and adverb.

In Play: The term has fallen into disrepute with the coming of feminism, but is still used as a model for proper feminine behavior by some: "A lady wouldn't pick her nose at the table!" This word is used in too many idiomatic constructions to mention here; I will mention only one: "Ladies and gentlemen! May I have your attention please. Has anyone seen my three-legged dog, Skippy?"

Word History: Old English hlæfdige "mistress of a household, wife of a lord" literally meant "one who kneads bread", from hlaf "bread" + -dige "maid". Hlaf went on to become loaf, and a relative of dige came down to us as dough. By the time this word reached Middle English it had been reduced to lafdi and the medial F disappeared in the 14th century. Lord made a similar journey. Setting out as hlafweard "bread-keeper", it was soon reduced to hlaford. This word referred to the head of a household, as opposed to a hlaf-æta, literally "bread-eater", the word in those days for "servant". As did hlafdige, this word lost the initial H and the medial F, to become lord. (We hope that there is a proper lady in the life of Tom Kopff, the contributor of today's Good Word.)
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Re: LADY

Postby Slava » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:52 am

I do believe Skippy went west. He's looking for the guy who shot his paw.
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Re: LADY

Postby MTC » Tue Oct 09, 2012 7:07 am

Dr. Goodword politely observes, "The term has fallen into disrepute with the coming of feminism, but is still used as a model for proper feminine behavior by some...," Todd Aiken among them. Republicans have yet to recover from the political backlash generated by Aiken after he commented Senator Claire McCaskill's debate performance was "more ladylike" than in 2006. Yes indeed the terms "lady" and its handmaiden "ladylike" have "fallen into disrepute...."

Tracing the fall of "lady" and "ladylike" from their former eminence to something between quaint anachronisms and woeful pariahs would take volumes. We would have to travel well beyond the four corners of our linguistic world, and suffer grave risk thereby. "Lady's" origin as "one who kneads bread", from hlaf "bread" + -dige "maid" foreshadows its ultimate downfall. Women were bound to break free from their subservient role in the kitchen, Todd Aiken and his benighted followers notwithstanding.
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Re: LADY

Postby call_copse » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:18 am

Quite MTC. Humphrey Bogart was about the last bloke who might have got away with referring to someone as a lady around these parts. You might get anything between a look from between narrowed lids or full-on round abuse for terming a woman such in the presence of any grown female here. At least in England the association is with 'good and chattel of a lord / prince' or possibly 'bag lady' / 'lady of the night', neither sense likely to be well received. Best saved for discussion of history IMHO.

Of course the US is a different world... It certainly doesn't surprise me that the shudderworthy Aiken would use lady as common currency, probably in conjunction with exhortations to return to the kitchen etc.
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Re: LADY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:51 am

One place where their are still ladies is women's sports, especially basketball. Baylor's Lady Bears won it all last year and may do so again this year. I now live in the home of the Lady Techsters who also have a storied history on the courts, including the playing career and first coaching years of the Baylor coach. It seems preferable to calling teams The Women Wolves or the Gator Gals. At least so far.
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Re: LADY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:36 pm

Here the women's team is the Lady Mavericks.
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Re: LADY

Postby Slava » Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:41 pm

While in some usages Lady may have fallen into disrepute, it still serves well in the standard phrase for greeting a mixed group.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
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Re: LADY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:26 pm

Old gag: Who was that lady I saw you with last night?
that was no lady, that was my wife.

Old and worn out, but it highlights the contrast between woman and lady. The latter implies good (and perhaps refined) behavior as opposed to "common," whatever that is. "Woman" is neutral, female.

The joke is so old, someone updated it just as badly:
Who was that ladle I saw you with last night?
That was a gal I used to spoon with.
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Re: LADY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:17 am

:roll:
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Re: LADY

Postby Perry Lassiter » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:08 pm

Congrats Luke on advanced emoticons!
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Re: LADY

Postby LukeJavan8 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:51 pm

The impetus came from slava, I can take no credit.
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Re: LADY

Postby Philip Hudson » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:23 pm

Such a sad loss of so beautiful a word. My mother was a singer, and one song she sang had these words, "My Mother was a lady and yours, I would allow..." Indeed, my mother and her mother before her were ladies. In my idealized mind, all women are ladies. Yes, I put women on a pedestal. No, I never put them down. Equality of the sexes is no cause for lack of manners and decorum. Listen to Marty Robbins sing this lovely, old ballad.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MQ9vmIxtLg
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Re: LADY

Postby Slava » Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:27 am

Where are the women? Are they bound up in binders somewhere? How is it that in discussing the word "Lady," not one of the Agorans representing the gender of this word has chimed in?
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