There are words that are spoken in one way and written in another but when we see honorific for a married woman, it gets pretty confusing. I mean you call them ‘Missus’ but you write abbreviation as ‘Mrs’. The question that usually pops up in my mind is ‘where the hell did that ‘R’ came from’? and ‘what did it stand for’?
So, after a hell load of research and net surfing, I stumbled upon an article published on Mental Floss which has the answer to my questions and I decided to write and share the knowledge with you all.
After a little digging through history, the enigmatic mystery behind this bewildering abbreviation was found and the explanation is just way too puzzling (but we do have an explanation now). So, it all dates back to the 18th century, men and women were also called as “master” and “mistress” as that were the proper monikers for them but by the end, the people and the language evolved.
People, compelled with the habit of change started pronouncing the word “mistress” in a way that the sound of “r” got lost and it became “missis”. Now the new pronunciation became the general term for calling a woman and the usage of the original word “mistress” was changed.
Since then people started using ‘mistress’ as a general term for a woman who was supervising or managing something such as, a governess (a woman, who watched a family’s children). Though, the term ‘mistress’ is used in more of a scandalous way now but it was never meant to use this way.
You must be thinking, that we don’t see “Missus” written anywhere as an honorific for a married woman and that’s because nobody actually uses it. The word with changing times is now used as a term for servants and working class employer, that is why people opt to write formal abbreviation “Mrs” than writing down the whole word.
Another interesting part of the revelation is that in the 1900s, a newspaper published a note with an appeal from progressive-minded women, to choose a moniker that didn’t have to denote their marital status and that feminist moment gave us the abbreviation ‘Ms.’ that we use till today.
So in the 18th century it was ‘mistress’, after that till the 1900s it was only ‘Mrs’ and after that, we have ‘Mrs’ and ‘Ms’ both. Can you even imagine that how it changes from one word to another, and given the scenario of crazy hip and cool internet abbreviations of today’s era, you may never know what next is lined up to blow upon our language as an honorific for women? (Even the thought of it makes my hair stand).
10 Jan 2017
Avni S. Singh