Tweet Reveals Hilarious Old-Fashioned Word for “Spinster,” Goes Viral
Who wouldn't want to be a thornback?
If you’re over a certain age and you have yet to find a partner, chances are you’ve joked about being a spinster. Hundreds of years ago, spinster used to simply describe women whose job it was to spin wool. But by 1828, Merriam-Webster acknowledged a second meaning: “an unmarried or single woman.” There’s no question that being called a spinster is offensive and derogatory. After all, the implication is that past a certain age, a woman is no longer even eligible to be married, and is doomed to a solitary life of spinning wheels. But thanks to a tweet from writer Sophia Benoit that’s gone massively viral, we know now that spinster actually used to be reserved for unwed women between the ages of 23 and 26. After that, a spinster evolved to become… a thornback.
To be clear, a “thornback” is actually the name of a hideous species of ray fish with spines on their backs, so the term is in some ways even more odious than spinster. But it just sounds so much cooler. “Spinster” conjures up the image of a sad woman who has resigned herself to a life of solitude and wool. “Thornback” sounds like a mystical dragon that flies free and cannot be tamed.
“During the colonial period, Americans were trying to build their population. You needed women to be wives and mothers. If you were unmarried by 23, you were a spinster. If you weren’t married by 26, you were a thornback. It wasn’t easy or fun to be a single woman during that time period. The word became the lowest in the 1950s when only 17 percent of women were unmarried. To be a single woman during that time was difficult. You were ostracized, you were outside of the society. It was about keeping the social order intact. You began to believe, I’d better get married or I’d become an ugly old spinster.”
Even as early as the 19th century, some feminists were trying to reappropriate the term spinster to designate a woman who had made the choice not to marry due to societal pressure. There’s been a renewed push in recent years to destigmatize the word, too. But maybe we should just replace “spinster” with “thornback” since everyone on the internet is so excited about the term.
Brb opening a bar called Thornbacks and we only play Rom coms and the bachelor on tv
— Sophia Benoit (@1followernodad) March 13, 2019
Many people are even coming up with other names we can use for single women for different age brackets, too. After the age of 83, for example, someone suggested single women should simply be referred to as “Judi Dench.”
After 26: THORNBACK
After 36: DOOMWITCH
After 46: HENGEQUEEN
After 56: LIBERATED PAINMOTHER
After 66: THE UNBURDENED EMPRESS
After 76: RED MARY, OUTSIDE TIME AND SPACE, THE UNMAKER OF THE BONDS OF HEART, DESTROYER OF THE LABYRINTH, OBLITERATOR OF MENS
At age 84: JUDI DENCH https://t.co/6AARj5KbQY
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) March 13, 2019
Others have done a little digging and found out there’s another hilarious term for single ladies everywhere.
I’m going with ape leader, because leading apes into hell sounds like a successful Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/jJP6SCo0XF
— Sign Girl (@Taylor_Nash) March 13, 2019
Now that we know about “thornback,” we can never go back to “spinster.”
Delighted to find out I was unaware the entire time I was a spinster and I am now a Thornback, I feel invincible now! https://t.co/kaYu39zr1v
— Rachel Wheeler (@rachelhappyface) March 13, 2019
Shout out to all the thornbacks out there!
CAN’T WAIT TO BE A THORNBACK pic.twitter.com/1D7ESphHmR
— Maggie (@Miieruu) March 13, 2019
And if you’re wondering what kind of outfit would be perfect for an unapologetic thornback, check out 40 Common Fashion Tips Women Should Always Ignore.
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