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Gown of green

Posted by Henry on January 01, 2005

In Reply to: Re: Grass widow posted by ESC on December 31, 2004

: : : : : What is the meaning of a grass widow? Where does the grass come from? Is the expression still in force?

: : : : : In Portuguese we have a very old-fashioned expression: "casar na igreja verde" - "get married in the green church". The green church stands for the woods, the greens. So the meaning is to have an illicit relationship, actually out of a wedlock.

: : : : : Could there possibly be a correlation between the "verde" (green) and the "grass" of each expression?

: : : : : JC

: : : : I never heard this one myself (born & raised in the Northeastern U.S.) but apparently others have.

: : :
: : : Oh, pshaw! I just explained what a grass widow was to an Indian lady, not more than two weeks ago, using the explanation of the hot summer on the plain, green grass in the hill stations. I've read this explanation more than once, and took it to my bosom. Now I learn that it's all eyewash. Jumpin' Jehosophat! SS

: : It says here:

: : GRASS WIDOW -- "around 1900, referred to a wife whose husband was away on an extended trip -- but it was then often assumed he had no intention of returning or that the couple had agreed he wouldn't (earlier the term for an unwed mother, referring to the bed of hay or grass used in illicit lovemaking)." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner, Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976. Another reference says it also means a woman who is divorced or legally separated. From "The Pocket Dictionary of American Slang" by Harold Wentworth and Mr. Flexner, First Pocket Books, New York, 1968.

The definition above mentions a bed of grass. In folk song, a woman who wears the gown of green has been seduced - perhaps the gown bears grass stains upon it. Here's an example from the song Thomas of Winesbury;

Put off put off your gown of green
Stand straight upon the stone
And I will tell you by and by
Whether you be a maid or none

She's put off her gown of green
Stood straight upon the stone
And when she looked down her belly it was big
And her fair colour it was wan