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Posted by Masakim on April 17, 2002

In Reply to: Bachelorette posted by ESC on April 17, 2002

: : : : Fortunately we don't have this word over here - to us they're stag parties or hen parties - but I just wondered how recent this coinage is? I can understand why it arose though - a "spinster party" might be a tad hard to market.

: : : Apparently, from your post, in the U.K. a bachelorette is a gathering rather than a person. The only meaning I know for "bachelorette" in the U.S. is a young, unmarried woman. "Bachelorette" has different connotations than "spinster": a bachelorette is attractive in looks, personality, or both, and she probably lives apart from her parents. She may well marry someday. A spinster is past the usual age for marriage; she may or may not have left home. "Bachelorette" is the kind of word that makes word people wince. I don't know how old it is, but it isn't in my American print dictionaries.

: : Forgive me - I was being overly elliptical in my original post and therefore confusing. I only know of this term through the phrase "bachelorette party", and so, inasmuch as the word is known over here, it is also taken to be a connotation-free version of "spinster". It interests me precisely for that reason - although I think the word itself is wince-making, given the "left on the shelf" implications of spinster, one can easily see why there was a gap in the market for an utterly unpejorative word meaning "unmarried woman". I simply wonder roughly when that gap was filled.

: Bachelor originated "probably before 1300 'bacheler': a young man, a squire, a young unmarried man; later a young knight (before 1376), a university graduate or a junior member of a guild . The word is borrowed from Old French 'bacheler,' 'bachelier,' from Medieval Latin 'baccalaris,' probably a variant of 'baccalarius' helper or tenant on a 'baccalaria,' section of land; later 'baccalarious' also had the meaning 'junior member of a guild, university student,' the latter meaning seen in the pun on 'baccalaureus' under 'baccalaureate.'" From the "Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology" by Robert K. Barnhart (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1995).

: "Bachelorette" was among several words created "when World War I really gave the -ette ending a start in the United States," according to "The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States" by H.L. Mencken (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1963, Fourth Edition and two supplements, abridged, with annotations and new material by Raven I McDavid Jr.)

: The first time I remember hearing "bachelorette" was on the U.S. TV show (1960s??) The Dating Game.

Now that women are being drawn even more than in the first World war into positions ordinarily filled by the men, the feminine suffix _-ette_ is due for a strong revival. A few uses are already on the scene: "One of Chief Loar's achievements has been the training of the country's first corps of volunteer women firefighters ... known far and wide as the North Kansas City 'Firettes'" (_Cooperative Consumer_ 31 Aug. 1942 10/2); "The official crew of sailorettes" (_American Speech_ Apr. 1942 88/2). Other recent examples show more usual occupation of women: _American Speech_ has recorded separately _laughettes_, _bachelorettes_, _glamorettes_, _Latin Quarterettes_, and _stagette_.
From _American Speech_ (December 1942)