Pardon the Wait

Pardon the Wait.gif

She wants to be called “waiter” because she doesn’t like “waitress?” Or “Amy”?

Or is the joke that this is the opposite of what a waitress might say, which still doesn’t explain “waiter”?

Related to the fact she’s wearing a tie?

Clearly I got nothing.

But while we’re on the topic…

A couple of weeks ago, while going through a photo album/scrapbook nobody had seen in decades,  I came across a 1970 newspaper ad mentioning an appearance by an authoress.

How quaint.

I mentioned this to two of my cousins. One of them, a male, basically said “that’s what they’re called, isn’t it?” Well, not really since Jane Austen.

The other cousin, who is an authoress, said she’d never been called that in her life, but… she didn’t think she’d be offended or anything. Probably.

And that got me thinking about the trend lately to refer to actresses as actors. Which is all very well, but what happens when you have to give out awards? “This year’s Oscar for Best Actor With XX Chromosomes goes to…”

And that got me thinking… how many words with the -ess suffix are still in common use? Stewardesses are flight attendants now. Waitresses… I guess we’ll have to call them “Amy” until a good word for a member of the waitstaff gains acceptance.

“Seductress” remains on the board, because it’s an inherently gender-specific job (likewise “temptress,” but how often do we really hear either?)

I suppose 50 years from now “wife” and “widow” might fall by the wayside, but for right now… how many words with the -ess suffix are still in common use?

67 Comments

  1. Brian in STL: Fair enough on the first point, but on the second, I think very few words can be considered “male-only” words. Most of the male words discussed – “Hunter,” “waiter, “actor,” “aviator,” “executor” – they can be used to refer to males specifically, or the profession in general. (The default human gender being traditionally male.)

  2. Agreed, and that would apply to the seamer/seamstress mentioned above (spellcheck doesn’t like “seamer” but it’s wrong. I don’t know of a word “tailoress” or something equivalent.

  3. I’m afraid I can’t help. The first word that popped into my brain, and refuses to leave, was ‘succubus’.

    Wrong spelling for your question.

  4. > how many words with the -ess suffix are still in common use?

    Perhaps the negatively connoted pairs, due to heavy use in literature?
    Enchanter/Enchantress
    Tempter/Temptress
    Adulterer/Adultress

    Not to mention:
    Matthew/Mattress
    Fort/Fortress
    Katnip Evergreen/Katniss Everdeen
    /Buttress

    I’ll show myself out.

  5. As an aside, in my early days on usenet there was a well-known “personality” (some would say troll) that went by an ID that was a misspelling of “catlover”. It might have been “cattlovr”, but I’m not sure. Over the years the name would pop back up, but it was usually clear that it was an “homage”.

    I am not implying that this Catlover has anything to do with it, just that I think of the other when I see the name.

    PS, before posting, I did Grouple search and I think now it was “cattlovrr”. There is a usenet group alt.fan.cattlovrr.

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/alt.fan.cattlovrr

  6. “Seamstress” according to Wiktionary is “seamster” + “-ess”, the latter being a feminizing suffix which displaced earlier Old English “-en”. Conincidentally, “seamster” is from Old English sēamestre (“seamstress”), and “-ster” is itself a feminine agent suffix. The masculine/neuter form appears to be “seamer”.
    BTW, a brewster is a female brewer, and a bakester (hence surname “Baxter”) is a female baker. Cf. “spinster”.
    On the other hand, we also have “teamster”, which I don’t know was ever used as a strictly female noun.

  7. @CIDU Bill: as in “Do infants like infancy as much as adults like adultery?”
    @Brian in STL: Wow. No connection, but I really appreciate the background. I’m just particularly fond of kitty cats. Cats, comics and comedy. (Bluegrass, BBQ and blockchain too)

  8. Hmph. Re the “-ster” ending, “lobster” may mean “female spider” (“lob” = spider).

    Now if “-trix” is the feminine ending corresponding to “-tor”, does that mean “Trix is for [girl] kids” and boys have to wait for a box of Tor?

    And shouldn’t the feminist version of the word “history” not be “herstory” but “herstrixy”?

  9. ‘Waiter’ is sometimes gender-neutralized to ‘waitron’ but I don’t know if it’s mostly done as a joke.

  10. @ Treesong – We talked about “waitron” earlier, but it’s buried on the first page now. My brother ran into the term in the mid to late 80’s, but it was only used internally (among the restaurant’s staff), not publicly.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s