Posted by Victoria S Dennis on September 04, 2007
In Reply to: May-December couple posted by Baceseras on September 04, 2007
: : : The title of a recent article in by J Bohannon Science was "Fertile times for May-December couples". Any ideas where the phrase "May-December couple" comes from?
: : Do you mean other than the obvious? May is Springtime, associated with youth, the Springtime of life. December suggests cold winter, the dead time of the year, when nothing grows. May-December romances or weddings is a common cliché to describe the coupling of youth with age, old guys marrying young girls (or vice versa). You may someimes see the phrase rendered as "May-November."
: : Although I have used stark terms to contrast December with May, in use the phrase only means young as opposed to old or older. I read the Bohannon article, and a photo used with the article appears to suggest that a 5-year difference is enough to evoke the phrase. Usually, however, the phrase is used only when the age difference is 15 years or more, preferably more. In the "vice-versa" category, the most visible example nowadays is Kutcher-Moore.
: : SS
: The currency of "May-December" is owing to 'September Song', lyrics by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson --- "When I was a young man, a-courting the girls, I'd play me a waiting game: if a maid refused me with a toss of her curls, I'd let the ol' world take a couple of twirls .... But it's a long, long time from May to December, and the days grow short as you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, One hasn't got time for the waiting game ...."
The idea behind the metaphor is very old. Chaucer's "Merchant's Tale" is about a doddering old man called "Sir January" who marries a lovely young girl called "May". In the 14th century when Chaucer was writing, the year officially began on the Feast of the Ascension (March 25th), but in the 18th century when Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar New Year was shifted to January 1. Now that January was the beginning of the year, whereas December was the end, the proverbial idea very naturally changed from "May-January" to "May-December". (VSD)