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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?


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).