My old lady = wife
Posted: 02 September 2008 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]
RankRank
Total Posts:  31
Joined  2008-09-02

Any info on the source of “my old lady” idiom?  How old is it?  Where did it originate? 

Is this idiom used throughout the English speaking world (I’m American)?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 September 2008 10:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  590
Joined  2007-02-22

Not sure about “my old lady”, but over here in the UK, the expression “my old man” has become confusing, as it now can refer either to “my husband” or “my father”, which suggests that one usage is a recent import.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 September 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
RankRank
Total Posts:  55
Joined  2007-02-15

The dual meaning exists in the US too, but context is everything.  Before I was married my old lady was my mother.  My wife is now my old lady.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 September 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  236
Joined  2007-02-23

Under old lady MW.com also lists girlfriend “… especially : one with whom a man cohabits” but gives no hint as to etymology or history of the slang.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 September 2008 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

OED (Draft revision June 2008):

2. colloq. A person’s mother; a man’s wife or female partner. Freq. with possessive adjective. Cf. OLD WOMAN n. 1c.
1599 G. CHAPMAN Humerous Dayes Myrth sig. C3, This is but the beginning of sport betweene this fine lord and his old lady. ?1618 LADY M. BELL Let. in Norfolk Rec. Soc. (1941) XIV. 46 My ould Lady and I being together.. he came unto me and sayde; O madame [etc.]. 1730 J. MILLER Humours of Oxf. IV. 56 Tru. Pr’ythee, what can’st thou mean by this Masquerade? Gain. To make my old Lady believe, if I can, that I am the very Person you took me for. 1773 R. GRAVES Spiritual Quixote I. viii. 287 Application was made to my old Lady by another gentleman, of a much larger fortune. 1837-40 T. C. HALIBURTON Clockmaker 2nd Ser. viii, My old lady.. is agoin’ for to give our Arabella.. a let off to-night. 1871 E. EGGLESTON Hoosier School-master xvii. 134 Here’s the old lady and Shocky. 1932 D. L. SAYERS Have his Carcase xii. 152 ‘There, there, Mother,’ muttered Henry… ‘Bit of a staggerer for the old lady, this.’ 1967 C. HIMES Black on Black (1973) 133 A man called T-bone Smith sat.. looking at television with his old lady, Tang. 1991 Sunday Mail (Brisbane) 21 Apr. 44/7 The following year they moved in together and as his ‘old lady’ she put her career on hold to be by his side. 2000 R. BARGER et al. Hell’s Angel v. 85 His old lady was screaming, so one of the Misfits bitch-slapped her.

I had no idea it was that old.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 September 2008 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

And here’s old woman:

c. colloq. A person’s mother; a man’s wife or female partner. Cf. OLD LADY n. 2. Freq. with possessive adjective.
1668 F. KIRKMAN Eng. Rogue II. 12, I concluded my self much better then when I was in Ireland tyed to my old woman. 1729 T. ODELL Smugglers II. iii. 38 Shou’d my old Woman pop off, may be Bess an’ I shou’d have a mind to be one Flesh. a1775 J. BOUCHER Gloss. Archaic & Provinc. Words (1832-3) p. l/1 Could my old woman, whilst I labour’d thus, At night reward me with a smouch. 1834 W. G. SIMMS Guy Rivers II. viii. 97 The old woman, by whom we mean.. to indicate the spouse of the wayfarer, and mother of the two youths, was busied about the fire. 1839 C. M. KIRKLAND New Home xv. 96 If my old woman was to stick up that fashion, I’d keep the house so blue she couldn’t see to snuff the candle. 1916 ‘TAFFRAIL’ Pincher Martin xviii. 337 ‘Ow’s Hemmeline an’ Mrs Fig—yer ole woman? 1939 Collier’s 23 Sept. 20/1 My old woman used to say you inherited luck the way you did the color of your eyes. 2000 H. DAVIS Jungle & Damned i. 60 Caught the bastard in flagrante delictu, as we say, with my old woman.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 September 2008 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4740
Joined  2007-01-03

Not sure about “my old lady”, but over here in the UK, the expression “my old man” has become confusing, as it now can refer either to “my husband” or “my father”, which suggests that one usage is a recent import.

Not at all, the dual meaning has been around since at least the beginning of the 18th century. Here are the first two citations for old man, n. 1.b.:

b. colloq. A person’s father; a woman’s husband or male partner. Freq. with possessive adjective.
1673 DRYDEN Marriage a-la-Mode I. i. 5 My old man has already marry’d me; for he has agreed with another old man, as rich and as covetous as himself. 1707 C. CIBBER Comical Lovers V. 71 You must, and shall love me, and all that; for my old Man is coming up, and all that; and I am deses peré au dernier, and will not be disinherited.

Like a lot of such expressions, it is only confusing when taken out of context. Since the term is used familiarly, the listeners and readers can be presumed to know whether the husband or father is meant.

There is also the military sense of commanding officer, which the OED dates to the early 19th century (late 17th century and Dryden again for the more general sense of a supervisor). This one is often odd in that the commanding officer is sometimes younger than the speaker.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 September 2008 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3493
Joined  2007-01-29

As you can see from my “old lady/woman” citations, the OED doesn’t even attempt to separate the “mother” and “wife” senses.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 September 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  114
Joined  2008-04-24

Dave Wilton in an old Wordorigins thread on “my lady wife”:

The OED2 (for some reason, the OED3 search engine is barfing on this term) gives “lady [designation of relationship]” as an honorific going back to the 16th century. No cites of “lady wife” before 1840, but there is “lady mother”, “lady grand-mother”, “lady bride”, “lady daughter”, etc.

But not, presumably, “old lady”, though honorific applies in this case, too. (IMHO, as a WAG, and any other aconyms that will help prevent a small insect from being attacked with a heavy, sharp instrument.)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 11 September 2008 12:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Avatar
Rank
Total Posts:  6
Joined  2007-05-04

the old lady---meaning wife ----has beeen replaced by “her inside” :coolsmirk:

Profile
 
 
Posted: 12 September 2008 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  362
Joined  2007-03-05

“‘er indoors” was how Arthur Daley in the UK TV series Minder (1980s) referred to his wife - she was never seen in the series.

Profile
 
 
   
 
 
‹‹ Jell-O      Computer literacy ››