Hag Wisdom

The Madness of Mis

For the story of Mis please visit Sharon Blackie here: https://theartofenchantment.net/2016/11/10/the-wild-woman-in-irish-myth/

Hag, harridan, crone: 16 words we only use to describe older women

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Battleaxe, noun

Used to describe strict headmistresses, dragon-like mother-in-laws and any number of older women who have dared to have assert themselves. ‘A formidably aggressive older woman’ says the Oxford Dictionary online. Their example sentence: ‘a battleaxe with inflexible house rules’. Because the home is the woman’s domain, naturally.

Bint, noun

Originally from 19th century Arabic, when it  meant ‘daughter’ or ‘girl’ – specifically one who was yet to have children.

Nowadays, far more likely to be used as a derogatory term for a woman of advancing years, often prefaced with ‘silly old’.

Cougar, noun

From Demi Moore to Madonna, any woman dating a younger man is labelled a ‘cougar’. Makes a change from ‘Mrs Robinson’, I suppose.

The online Oxford Dictionary, sums it up with this delightful example sentence: ‘She’s easily 20 years older than you but she’s drinking a Shirley Temple and she’s pretty tarted-up, pretty hot – a bona fide cougar.’

Which is probably about the maximum number of sexist stereotypes you can fit into one sentence.

Demi Moore - predator...
Demi Moore – predator… CREDIT: LUCAS JACKSON 

Crone, noun

The Cambridge Dictionary online defines this as ‘an unpleasant or ugly old woman’ or ​’in stories, an old woman with magic powers’. Which basically means the male equivalent would be wizard… infinitely less offensive.

Often used alongside ‘revolting old’ or ‘withered’.

 

Frump, noun

Shapeless old-fashioned clothes? Flat shoes? It can only be a frump. The word originally denoted mocking speech and later a bad-temper. It was only the early Victorians who started using it to describe a ‘dowdy’ woman. The current dictionary definition is: ‘An unattractive woman who wears dowdy old-fashioned clothes.’

Sometimes used to describe an outfit itself, to avoid accusations that the woman wearing it is herself being unfairly targeted, for example ‘she was wearing a frumpy dress’.

Never used to describe men.

Hag, noun

Belongs in the ‘crone’ category and defined as ‘an ugly old woman’.

While some have suggested male equivalents – such as curmudgeon or git – it is the female-centric terms that specifically denote ugliness, unpleasantness and often poor hygiene.

Harridan, noun

Definition: an unpleasant woman, especially an older one, who is often angry/bossy.

Thought to derive from the 17th century French for ‘old horse’. Oh good.

One imagines the Victorians never called their queen a 'frump'
One imagines the Victorians never called their queen a ‘frump’ CREDIT: PA

Hormonal, adjective

You’d be forgiven for thinking than only women had hormones, so often are we accused of being slaves to them.

Commonly used to reference the menopause in older women – because there isn’t enough to deal with.

Matronly, adj

‘A matronly woman, usually one who is not young, is fat and does not dress in a fashionable way’, says the Cambridge dictionary.

Commonly denotes a motherly, bosomy, caregiver, which is all a bit ‘Carry On’ and outdated.

MILF, noun

Unlikely though it might seem, this is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary online – a sign of the times – as ‘a sexually attractive woman who is a mother’. Which is about as polite as this one gets.

In the interests of fairness, the male equivalent is DILF and there are entire Instagram feeds devoted to ‘Dilfs of Disneyland’ and the like. Still, more commonly used to describe women, when father’s lean towards the ‘silver fox’.

Mutton, noun

‘A middle-aged or old woman dressed in a style suitable for a much younger woman’ says the dictionary, offering up yet another term used to judge how older women dress.

See also the offensive ‘Kronenbourg’ – used to describe a woman who looks 16 from the back and 64 from the front (or as Urban Dictionary puts it: a lady who looks great from behind, but has a face like a chopping board’).

Hillary Clinton was called 'shrill' during the US election campaign
Hillary Clinton was called ‘shrill’ during the US election campaign CREDIT: JULIO CORTEZ 

Old bag, noun

Who knows whether the ‘bag’ refers to under-eye wrinkles, piles of supermarket shopping (see also: ‘bag lady’) or the frumpy clothing older women are so often accused of wearing.

Definition: ‘A woman, especially an older one, perceived as unpleasant, bad-tempered, or unattractive’.

Shrill, adj

Commonly used to describe a high-pitched female voice (see Hillary Clinton). Margaret Thatcher was so afraid of it that she took elocution lessons to make her voice sound deeper and therefore more ‘serious’. Rarely used to describe a high male one tone.

Spinster, noun

Surely the days of any woman being seen as ‘left on the shelf’ are over? Yet the word spinster persists, describing an unmarried and ‘childless’ female – typically one viewed as beyond the age of marriage (though research shows that more women aged over 65 in Britain are marrying than ever).

The male equivalent? Eligible bachelor.

Wench, noun

This can be used for older and younger women – lucky us!

Witch, noun

‘A woman who is believed to have magical powers and who uses them to harm other people’ – yet this fictional (the clue being in the definition) term is still used to describe women, particularly those in positions of power. Theresa May has been called this, while the women sharing their experiences of sexual harassment via the #MeToo hashtag were accused of a ‘witch hunt’.

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