Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What Shall We Call Our Women?: An Observation from T.T. Eaton


In a widescale attempt to provide lesser known blogs with good publicity, the honorable Owen Strachan has linked my blog with the notatable description: "history." I have to admit that while historical reflection was the reason I started this blog, my recent posts haven't exactly lived up to that vision. That said, it's time I started getting back to the basics. So without further a-doo-do...

I was digging through Boyce Centenntial Library's T. T. Eaton Papers today when a particular essay caught my eye. This Eaton essay was entitled: "What Shall We Call Our Women?" Eaton was a unique man of Baptist history, described by Russell Moore as "a man of the church who stood athwart history, yelling, 'STOP,' with a Bible in his hands." I also heard it said that Eaton represented simultaneously both what was right and what was wrong with 19th century Southern Baptists. If that is the case, then surely this essay represents all that is right and good! This man had an uncanny talent for observation and unintentional wit as evidenced to this very asute point that would have otherwise escaped my attention.

Eaton lamented the fact that Americans had no good formal title with which to refer to the bone of Adam's bone and the flesh of Adam's flesh (aka: the woman). Most cultures divide women into two classes: married and unmarried. In English, the married woman is known as a "Mizzez" (note the hard pronunciation), while the unmarried woman is referred to as a "Miss."

First, Eaton took issue with the appropriateness of "Miss" when referring to a single woman. Webster's Dictionary, of course, defines "miss" with such undesirable connotations as "a failure to hit the desired mark." Clearly, as Eaton suggested, this is not the sort of implication we should convey to our young, single women! As if to add insult to injury, the "miss" stem is often used as the base of many unpleasant compound words such as "mistreat" or "misunderstand."

Eaton, upset that even "Mizzez" sounded too gruff and unpleasant an honorific for the glory of man, conceded that other cultures have bested the English language in their formal references to the fairer sex. German uses the dignified distinctions of "Frau" and "Fräulein." French makes use of the magnificent terms, "Madame" and "Mademoiselle." Spanish uses the sweet sounding "Señora" and "Señorita." But English, that great universal language, can only muster up the unpleasant "Mizzez" and potentially embarrassing "Miss." America, according to Eaton, possessed a superior sort of women to any of these forementioned cultures, yet it rewarded them with the least attractive honorifics.
What then shall we call our women? I don't really know what Eaton would have recommended, as I did not have time to finish the essay and couldn't run off a copy since it was a manuscript from the library's special collections. But I suppose we are all captives to our culture at some point.

With great indebtedness to our late Brother Eaton,
I am,
On the Shoulders of Giants

1 comment:

  1. MartimusPrime11:25 PM

    Thanks for the picture comment. I'm actually blogging at www.martimusprime.com now. It's a different blog than the one you commented on.

    ReplyDelete