[Ads-l] two somewhat unusual compounds

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 26 01:28:29 UTC 2014

Reading (or actually listening to) the 2007 Nancy Horan novel _Loving Frank_, based on the long love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and feminist writer Mamah /'mem@/ Borthwick Cheney who met in Oak Park, Illinois in 1905 or so when they were both married and went off together to Europe in 1909, providing fodder for the eager readers of the scandal sheets of the day.  At one point Mamah is concerned that she's being portrayed as an "affinity fool", not a familiar expression to me or apparently to virtually anyone else.  There are just a handful of hits on google, the only relevant ones being either to this novel ("Was she the only one being dragged forward by Ellen Key's words, an affinity fool for all to see?", she wonders [Ellen Key being a well-known Swedish writer at the time who becomes Mamah's mentor and role model]) or to passages in two contemporary (early 20th c.) newspapers, the Suburbanite Economist from Chicago, announcing an eponymous sermon at a local church, and the Marion (Ohio) Daily Mirror (April 12, 1909), neither of which I was able to confirm (although at least the first was perhaps the source of Horan's use of the phrase, especially if the sermon was directed at Mrs. Cheney herself in absentia).  The use of "affinity" in "affinity fool"--presumably that of someone who follows her heart, even if it means casting aside conventional responsibilities and expectations, reminded me of Goethe's elective affinities, but the only connection I could find in the OED entry was:

9. The state of being psychically or spiritually connected to another person, regarded as a basis for a romantic or sexual relationship; a connection of this type, serving to draw people together; a person to with whom one shares such a connection.

Maybe "affinity fool" is just compositional on this sense (cf. "fool for love"), but it seems to be used as if it were a fixed collocation, except that there's no evidence it was on the basis of the no doubt insufficient literary detective work I was able to manage.  

Then there was also the use in the same novel of "soul mate" (or maybe "soulmate") as a pejorative directed at Mamah and Frank and similar iconoclastic couples, pretty much with the denotation it has now ('A person who shares a deep understanding or bond with another; esp. one ideally suited to another as a lover or spouse'--OED), but clearly intended negatively or sarcastically, and with the expectation that it would indeed be interpreted in that way, implying an illicit or at least socially unsanctioned connection.  Maybe that one doesn't really need an entry, but I'd be curious if anyone is familiar with either this use of "soulmate" or any use of "affinity fool". Maybe (W.A.G.) "affinity fool" is a calque on a Swedish phrase used by Ellen Key?

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list