Fishwife

Oh, the misunderstood fishwife. She gets such a bad rap. Having become used to hearing this as a term to refer to a loud or shrewish woman, I was delighted to come across it in a different usage. While reading “The Paris Wife” by Paula McClain, I was struck by this sentence, “Sometimes he’d make us a cup of tea – a strong leaf that tasted of mushroom and ashes – and we’d chat like fishwives.” To me, that has a pleasant connotation; one of warmth and friendliness. I knew at once this was my next bon mot. A little research tells me the term comes from the German, and wif was a term for woman, not exclusively a married one. A fishwife is a woman who sells fish. It’s believed that the reputation of being loud and shrewish came from the fishwife working on the docks with the men, who were frequently heard to swear and use coarse language. That may be, but I rather like The Paris Wife’s take, and would like to swap tales with a fishwife over tea. Care to join me?

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3 thoughts on “Fishwife

  1. As much as I appreciate your attempting to give “fishwife” a softer, gentler meaning, I will always see and hear the loud woman selling fish at the docks.

    I would, however, love to have tea with you if, you will refer to me as the “Paris Wife!”

    • I would be happy to refer to you as the “Paris Wife”. Or for that matter, the Pioria Wife, the Pittsburgh Wife, or any other local that suits your fancy…as long as we can have tea.

      • I like that term, “suits your fancy,” not enough people say that anymore. Infact, I think that you are the only person I know who says that. You are single handedly saving the English language and, for that, I thank you.

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