Daily Archives: December 10, 2010

uxorious

Ah, what could be more luxurious for a man than to have a wife deserving of great devotion? Ladies, don’t you want a man who will always give u xo (or, when that’s infeasible, IOU’s for the same)? It seems to me it could hardly be a greater virtue in a man than to adore his chosen consort – his wife, Latin uxor. Such a man may be said to be uxorious – as the OED says, “devotedly attached to a wife.”

Notwithstanding which, culture being what it is, the reception of such fellows has sometimes been censorious. Indeed, some observers have seemed determined to find in this word the classical look of the Latin root, VXOR, which reminds one of vex or something like that. Even if some men would want to raise a Luxor or some other deluxe temple to their uxor, others see the VXOR as some nickel-and-dime (V and X?) operator. Indeed, dictionary.com defines uxorious as “doting upon, foolishly fond of, or affectionately submissive toward one’s wife” and the Collins English Dictionary says “excessively attached to or dependent on one’s wife.” As though there were such a thing as excessive devotion to one’s soul-mate!

But that is a definition from an older time. And I suppose, really, one’s affections may be imbalanced or overly submissive (spouses are best as equal partners, with respectful give-and-take– and as to idealistic notions, well, read this: A Reading for a Wedding). Imbalances can sometimes become exorbitant. Still, I rather think the OED definition is more to my liking. But we must admit, if devotion to one’s wife is a norm reasonably to be expected, why have a word for it? The existence of the word implies that there is something exceptional or exceptionable about it – or that the utterers are perhaps exceptious. As one fellow in 1822 put it, “I am a little what vulgar folks call uxorious, and am never truly eloquent upon any subject but my wife and children.”

Two things to note about that quote: First, 1822. You see? There have always been sensible fellows. Second, can you really imagine a vulgar person using a term such as uxorious? I believe the more vulgar term usually used is a hyphenated compound with the second part being whipped and the first carrying a feline reference.

But, ah, apparently in 1822 vulgar people used fine Latinate words such as this. “Dexter, you damned uxorious blackguard! I am singularly esurient but you concede to your consort’s usurious standards in the matter of spotting me a pot of provender. Your heart is in the way of my stomach!” “Ah, Villiers, must you be so vulgar. Come, come, we all have our appetites. Yours is for food; mine is for my lady.” “She but uses you.” “Villiers, I want to spread the news: If it feels this good being used, let her just keep on using me… until she uses me up.” (And at this, Villiers withers and pays the bill.)