Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Those gossiping son of a guns

Are you sick of all the child birth posts yet? Ok, I promise this is my last one…maybe. When researching this subject, I was surprised to find many American idioms and words that originated in child birth practices. Here are a few of my favorite:

Son of a Gun
If you were a sailor’s wife in the 17th century then you might not want to give birth on the ship. To help the baby along the sailors would fire a canon believing the blast would help the baby come out faster. It’s from this tradition that we get the phrase “son of a gun.” Just imagine coming into the world to the sound of blazing canons.

Throughout history, when a woman gave birth it turned into one big party where presumably everyone but the mother in labor had a good time. When Marie Antoinette gave birth to her daughter, everyone but the local butcher crowded into her bed chamber to wait for the blessed event. These women who gathered around the birthing mother chattering and sharing stories were called “God-sibs” or sisters-in-god and became the origin of the word gossip. When Louis XIV’s mistress, Louise de la Valliere gave birth, he appointed a male midwife because he new prattling women were less likely to be discreet.

Farmed out
Today when you use the term “farmed out,"you usually think of the labor forces used in other countries to manufacture the goods that were once made in America. The term actually has its origins in childbirth. Throughout the 17th and 18th century, wealthy English ladies would send their newborns out to live with a wet nurse in the country. This practice was called “farmed out.”

Before the 1300s, the word travel was derived from “travail” and was defined as painful exertion and suffering. It was often used in referring to the pain of childbirth. They just don’t call it labor for nothing!


Lucy said...

hmmm...something on your mind these days Carlyn?..:)

I love this post! I never knew that about Louise- and now I also know the root of the word gossip -lol! thanks:)

moodyprudie said...

Just a quick (or perhaps not so quick note). I watched Queen Margot the other night, on the Sundance channel. This led me to the internet to check to see if all of the things in the movie actually happened, which then led me to your blog!

I just wanted to tell you that I Love! your blog! I love stories about the royals. I have read lots of books on Mary Queen of Scots. I'm not so interested in Elizabeth like lots of people are though. I think she's much more boring than many of the others.

I have sat down and read your entire 2008 posts in one sitting and will read 2009 tomorrow. (I would read it today but I really need to get off my ass and get something done!)

So, thank you for a morning of enjoyment and I will be looking forward to new posts!

Bearded Lady said...

Ms. Lucy - I keep thinking if I know what women of the past went through then I won't feel so bad when my day comes. Not sure if it will work.

moodyprudie - Queen Margot is one of my FAVORITE movies...although it really paints Catherine in a bad light. I am working on a post about the st. bart's massacre and hope to be done by the end of the month. So happy you like the blog!

Leslie Carroll said...

Carlyn, I'm not at all tired of the childbirth posts! Hey, whatever gets you through the day! I'm one of those geeks who loves to learn the derivation of phrases we all take for granted (like "farmed out," "son of a gun" -- etc.) So I adore your posts!

As for Queen Margot, I remember seeing it when it first came out, but not since; it would be fun to revisit it, having written about her mother's marriage (as well as Catherine de Medici's relationship to Margot) in NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES. Many years ago, the first time I was in Paris I visited the church that was the site of the first onslaught of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and recalled my maternal grandfather claiming that his side of the family had some Huguenot blood in it. So I remember bursting into tears in that church.

STAG said...

I thought "son of a gun" was a phrase relating to the offspring of sailor's "wives" (who of course were often not wives at all). The spaces between the guns on the gun deck could be covered with hammocks to provide a touch of privacy for conjugal visits. A son of a gun would be the issue of such visits.
citation...the guide on that big black ship tied up in Bristol....

Oh, and I am with moodie...I love your blog.

Bearded Lady said...

STAG - you are probably right. Tracking down the source of idioms is always tricky. I do remember the source for this one. It was a history channel documentary about ship technology. (I think one from those modern technology series)and it stuck in my head because my dad used to always say "son of a gun" when he was mad.

But I do think giving birth while a cannon was firing would make you invent all sorts of curses!

Nina said...

Do you know the source of the first picture?