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"Distaff" is a metonymy for the female side of a family (or society, I guess.)  What is the equivalent metonymy for the male side?


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2014 11:31 pm (UTC)
Spear side.
Oct. 25th, 2014 11:36 pm (UTC)

Love, C.
Oct. 26th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC)
None needed; male is the default?
Oct. 26th, 2014 12:18 am (UTC)
That's what I'm thinking. BTW this is not a puzzle -- I really do wonder.
Oct. 26th, 2014 12:42 am (UTC)
In one of Cabell's stories (?Jurgen?) there's a wedding scene in which the bride carries a distaff and Jurgen (I'm fairly sure this is in Jurgen) carries a spear. However, I don't think that reflects anything linguistic, despite Anonymous above.

ETA: No! I am SO WRONG! I am sorry, Anonymous!

From OED2: spear-side (after OE. on spere-healfe), the male line of desc

So Cabell was making a joke; the spear is in the course of the ceremony used to pierce a veil.

Edited at 2014-10-26 12:46 am (UTC)
Oct. 26th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
Well well well. That is very cool. And how well you recovered.
Oct. 26th, 2014 08:25 am (UTC)
Interesting, in Swedish we talk of 'svärds-sidan'- the sword-side. The female equivalent is 'spinn-sidan' - the spinning side.
Oct. 26th, 2014 11:55 am (UTC)
We guys get the swords and spears, they sit and spin. "In the picture-language of mythology, Woman represents all that can be known; Man is the hero who comes to know it.” Campbell
Oct. 26th, 2014 12:55 am (UTC)
That would be my guess as well. Likewise, since the younger male line of descent isn't the default, there's a special name for that one: the cadet branch.

FWIW, Wikipedia says the antonym of distaff is "agnate" so if one were looking for a term to use, that might work.

Edited at 2014-10-26 01:02 am (UTC)
Oct. 26th, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
Phony etymology I just thought of: "agnate" has something to do with sheep ("agnus") as does distaff (staff for winding wool.)

But I would be wrong to think it. Just looked it up and it does mean "descended only in the male line".
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:10 am (UTC)
False cognates!

And by the way, a cognate in Roman Law is one "descended from the same ancestor, whether through males or females. Thus distinguished from agnate, which was limited to legal relationship through the father only, though including relationship by adoption."

In Scottish Law, however, a cognate is "a relative on the mother's side as opposed to an agnate.

That nose? I got it from agnates.

Oct. 26th, 2014 11:49 am (UTC)
So maybe "natus"? My Oxford Universal just gives the meaninings in Latin, same as English (but not the Scots variant).
Oct. 26th, 2014 06:55 am (UTC)
Spear-side seems to be right as antonym of distaff-side, the terms recently dating from somewhere in the late medieval and terribly Freudian as well, as so much of word origins seems to be: the point of the spear at the end of the shaft; the cleft at the point of the distaff shaft to anchor the strands of flax wound round the shaft for later spinning. Back to fairy tales with all that spinning and spearing and winding.
Oct. 26th, 2014 11:49 am (UTC)
All that Freudian stuff -- I learned that at my mother's knee.
Oct. 26th, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
Nah, I don't buy that Freudian reading, because pamphlets would show the woman wielding the distaff in the same way the man wielded the sword--as a weapon.
Feb. 8th, 2015 02:29 pm (UTC)
Or like a rolling-pin in old cartoons.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 26th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Wikipedia
Bring me my Shield of beaten gold
Bring me my Arrows of desire --
Bring me my Spear -- O Clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

Or really, never mind.
Oct. 26th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
When the term was developed, during the middle ages and renaissance, it would be the sword. You'd have battle of the sexes pamphlets showing a man with a sword fighting a woman with a distaff.
Oct. 27th, 2014 03:40 am (UTC)
Distaff v. spear - fads in metaphor aside, the punishment reserved for uppity and disobedient women included the ducking stool which sometimes meant drowning and the scold's bridle, a nasty bit of ironwork. If things got out of hand domestically speaking, the punishment for a wife who killed her husband was that reserved for treason, burning. For him, pretty much not much happened. The man is the head of the woman and and the Anglo-Saxon status of hus-band lent a magisterial power over the household including the power of corporal punishment. This came perilously close to the old Roman power of death and her death, in the day, could be argued the accidental result of the legal infliction of punishment.

Learned at my mother's knee (my dad's, really - his old nursery rhyme book): A woman is a gladsome thing, She do the wash and do the wring. And my Welsh aunt: A whistling woman and a crowing hen Will never come to any good end.

Please forgive me for asking, but when did Wikipedia become an academic source? It is a good start but surely not the end.
Oct. 27th, 2014 11:23 am (UTC)
Examples of the awful treatment of women in the past by men -- continuing to this day in many places around the world -- can only be equalled by the awful treatment of men by other men. There is no way to make a count of the atrocities in order to make a comparison, for the heart of man is desperately wicked.

Wikipedia has been shown -- at least in the areas of science and math, which might be thought the toughest -- to have a rate of error about the same as the Encyclopedia Brittanica. (Of course Wikipedia began as a digitized version of the EB.) It has the advantage that anyone interested in a topic, and concerned for its accuracy, gets to change it, and editors check the changes. That it contains errors despite all this is undoubted. And yes, research should go farther -- though not for conversations like this, surely.
Oct. 28th, 2014 07:01 am (UTC)
Yes, and apologies and it is true that men kill men, each the other at the instigation of other men as cannon fodder and women are not exempt from these killings: it is just than women have been singled out in horrible ways from the usual rules of honorable death. If the heart of man is wicked, not even the devil knows the heart of man says the common law and so we are tried not for what we think,except for Salem and McCarthyism and other idiocies, but for what we in fact do. And so in so many ways are wicked the ways of women, for which their trials are often domestic. I carry no brief for either sex, or all six or more of sexes, but I wish that there might be a bit more kindness, sometimes.

Oct. 30th, 2014 04:58 am (UTC)
from Bob Scott
I kind of like Staff and Distaff, though it brings to mind function and....well, never mind. It has a nice sound, though.
Nov. 2nd, 2014 12:02 am (UTC)
This thread is fascinating.
Nov. 3rd, 2014 12:58 am (UTC)
counterpart of distaff
Feb. 8th, 2015 02:31 pm (UTC)
Re: counterpart of distaff
Feb. 7th, 2015 11:11 pm (UTC)
Feb. 8th, 2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
will someone please make a Falstaff joke?
I wish I had the wit.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )