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.
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!