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mistress
Posted: 31 August 2012 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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We considered Eliza’s question briefly in this old thread, without finding a suitable answer.  We even touched on the issue of whether mistress was appropriate for the paramour of an unmarried man.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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The mistress is sometimes disparagingly called a floozy*. I don’t think there’s a male equivalent to that, either, as in “she’s his floozy"/"he’s her ?”.

*1911: possibly related to the noun floss.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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What is the male equivalent of mistress? ie, a relationship where the female is married or has a higher status than the male? Boyfriend seems a bit flippant.

I’d suggest toyboy, if you wish to imply that she is supporting him, and gigolo if you wish to imply that he is exploiting her.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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It would appear my connotations are atypical, then. The Liszt example is over a hundred years old and I had thought the sense had changed somewhat but there’s been plenty of testamony here that you al do not take it to imply the man is married.
Thanks, y’all.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 05:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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To me, mistress does indeed connote the man is married. That may not be the only acceptable definition, but it is the one most commonly used nowadays and the one that springs to mind first. I agree it’s probably the best available choice, but that doesn’t mean its a good choice, particularly in a general reference like Wikipedia where you cannot expect readers to be aware of how historians of royalty use terms.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 02:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Surely it’s not only a question of ‘historians of royalty’. For at least two centuries it was quite normal for a man of means to maintain a sexual relationship with (and frequently maintain financially) a woman he wouldn’t consider marrying, and mistress was the established term in English for the woman in such a relationship.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Kept woman was also used for mistress, with the gentleman being known as a keeper. The latter term was much used in the 17th and 18th centuries (see one of Dryden’s best comedies Limberham, or The Kind Keeper), now marked as obsolete in OED.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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This sense of the word mistress has its origins in the conventions of medieval courtly love. The lover knelt (literally or figuratively) before his beloved and swore to serve her as a vassal; she was his mistress in the sense that he was her servant. The three earliest citations the OED offers for this sense all convey this aspect of the relationship:

c1425 in R. H. Robbins Secular Lyrics 14th & 15th Cent. (1952) 152 Now good swet hart & myn ane good mestrys I dew recumend me to yower pety.
c1450 (1375) Chaucer Anelida & Arcite 251 Me, that ye calden your maistresse, Your sovereyne lady in this world here.
1509 S. Hawes Pastime of Pleasure (1845) xviii. 83 You are my lady, you are my masteres, Whome I shall serve with all my gentylnes.

Within the courtly love convention it was the lady, not the man, who was always married; a properly-conducted courtly love affair was unthinkable without a jealous husband to be circumvented, of any rank from King Arthur downwards. It was her unavailability that made the relationship qualify as romantic; the lover could be married or not - it made no odds. It was also established wisdom that, even should it subsequently become possible to marry the lady (i.e. if she were widowed), no sensible man would do such a thing - because in the Middle Ages a husband was the master of his wife, not her servant. For courtly lovers to marry would involve either a brutal reversal of roles or an utterly unseemly continuation of romantic roles into married life.

I don’t think there has ever, at any time, been any implication that a man who had a mistress was necessarily married to someone else.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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I don’t think there has ever, at any time, been any implication that a man who had a mistress was necessarily married to someone else.

I would say that’s exactly the implication the term carries today. Most people today, upon encountering the word mistress, immediately think of an extra-marital affair. (Although a small subset probably think of a dominatrix first.)

How it was used in the past doesn’t really enter into the original question. If you’re writing an article for Wikipedia, the commonly understood connotations of words need to be taken into account. Were I writing an academic paper on the subject, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the term, because it is likely the readership would understand my meaning. The only reason I would use it in this sense on Wikipedia is because all the other choices are worse.

And as for medieval courtly romances, my students last year had exactly this problem with the term mistress used in relation to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. They were very confused because the translation (the word isn’t used in the Middle English poem) used mistress in reference to two unmarried people.

[ Edited: 01 September 2012 01:41 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 02 September 2012 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I dare say the statements can be made less ambiguous, even if it means using a long phrase rather than a single word.

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