Spinster Males ("minster")

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Mar 29 04:54:51 UTC 2001

At 9:27 AM -0500 3/29/01, Tony Glaser wrote:
>>To the Editor:
>>   "Minster?"  Bah, humbug!
>>   I'm a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, and I must
>>object to Alexandra Jacobs' coining of the new word, "minster," for
>>"spinster" heterosexual males in their forties who are still not
>>   We're a great group of guys!  We're not desperate!  We've got
>>money!  We've traveled the world!  The Wall Street Journal has
>>called us a genius (January 2nd, page A20, regrettably below the
>>fold)!  We don't need those _Sex and the City_ gals!
>>   Just between us, though, if Alexandra's not married...
>In any case, minster is not a new word, at least not on the other
>side of the Atlantic.

Depends on the meaning of the word "word".  There are indeed three
lexemes of this form listed in the OED, but none of them (not the
variant of MINISTER, nor the word for a kind of cloth from M√ľnster,
nor the more widely distributed word for a monastery or monastery
church) are the same WORD as the proposed lexical item with the above
meaning, which is hard to see as a metaphorical extension from any of
those three items.  Interesting, though, that Ms. Jacobs saw the need
to coin a dysphemism (corrresponding to "spinster"), where obviously
"bachelor" is just too upbeat.  One diagnostic, borrowing from an
observation of Robin Lakoff's, is that you shouldn't be able to
describe someone as "an eligible minster", any more than an "an
eligible spinster" (vs. "an eligible bachelor").  Presumably
"minster" = 'over the hill bachelor'.  Wonder if the Pope would count.


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