Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feeling Ancient

Every so often, I get reminded that I'm no longer young. Earlier this week, rereading the Wife of Bath's Prologue, when she talked about how she was forty and married Jankyn, who was 20, I couldn't help thinking, "Forty! Why that's not old at all!" But even as I thought that, I recalled the decades of work that sees the Wife of Bath as a rather dirty old woman.*

When I first studied Chaucer, I had an older male prof who clearly identified with Pandarus. At least, it seemed clear to me. I wonder if my students think I identify with the Wife of Bath?

Then there was class the other day, when I walked in and said something about what a fine day it was, and one of my students responded cheerfully, "holler."


(One of the advantages to having linguistics types as friends is that they explain all about things like this.)

*And before anyone gets all "life expectancy" on me, remember that a huge cause of a low life expectancy was infant and child death, and death in childbirth. Anyone who made it to 20 in the middle ages, had a pretty good chance of making it to, say, 50. Making it to 20, though, was really iffy. And if you were female and got past your child-bearing years, life probably got safer. The Plague becomes an issue in England in 1348, but that didn't sort much by age.


  1. What does "holler" mean?

  2. Well, forty is kind of old to be marrying a 20-year-old, unless maybe you're an older male prof who identifies with Pandarus...

  3. Hey! Forty's all kinds of young.

  4. I second that question - what does "holler" mean? And I've recently begun describing the Wife as a "cougar" like Demi Moore - they giggle a lot when I say that...

  5. "Holler" or, "Holla." I quote the Urban Dictionary:

    4. v. An expression meant to express agreement with another person's declarative statement; the caucasian form of "holla."

    They provide a number of examples, but the following is most illustrative:

    -Yo. What is Up Cracka?
    -Nothing dogg.
    -That babe over there sure is fine.
    -Cracka Whaaaat?
    -Cracka Please.
    -These Cheez Nips sure are good.

  6. OK, I am borrowing medieval woman's Demi Moore/cougar reference -- hilarious! -- and also, I'm going to start saying, "Cracka Please." Too damn funny!

    And Bardiac -- good on you (Brit slang) for making the infant mortality point. That's one I make often. In fact, I even made it to a famous medievalist once (it's amazing how many lit people believe the stereotypes).

    Oh, and FWIW, the later waves of the plague *did* disproportionately affect the very young and the very old.

  7. Thanks to J. Harker, I may now rest easy, having learned something entirely new today.

  8. holla!

    BTW, have you noticed that the security codes are becoming a lot more actual-word-like than they used to be? I'm playin' a little game wit' my fishies (aka "students" in the standard vernacular) over on my site: we're gonna see if we can get some of these introduced into, first, interweb usage (think "srsly" and "WTFBBQ" and "lolcats"), then into the 3-D world...Wanna play?

    The "word" I'm to replicate to post this comment is "exyllusn", which I'm going to suggest might would be a cool txty/interweb term synonymous with disillusion, used thusly: "Dude, I experienced some major exyllusn when she handed back the midterm..."

  9. Thanks, j. harker--it's like the new version of "Word."

    Mrs. c, my word is "entaggly," which surely ought to mean something good.