Late in the day in yesterday’s comments section for the post “Word Lover”, Clyde had an interesting observation that some may have missed, so I’ll repeat it here:
True, there seems to be a missing word. “Master” is the logical choice, but the powerful connotations of that word really don’t line up with what we think of as “mistress” role. We have to think again.
For sheer economy, it’s hard to top “Misteress”. But I’m guessing most people wouldn’t catch the slight difference in pronunciation. The Urban Dictionary says the right word is “Manstress“. That’s better, but still wrong to my ear. I hear “Manstress” as your male friend who is agonizing to be around.
The commentators across the pond at Yahoo Answers in the UK and Ireland had some better ideas. I like “Histress”, “Consort” and “Kept Man”.
But still, none of these strike me as carrying the same quality of ownership as “Mistress”. As Clyde points out, that fact that a man HAS a mistress carries some added significance. Why doesn’t the mistress HAVE the man?
Some say the absence of a proper word for this relationship is the result of centuries of male domination – women haven’t possessed the power to play the same role in the relationship as a man does with his mistress. The fact that we’re talking about it now may indicate that times have changed enough to make the coining of a new word possible.
That means this is a moment of great opportunity!
I can think of at least one contemporary reference that may have enough unique strengths to carry forward as the new term for a man who is in an inappropriate relationship with a powerful woman who is not his wife. But I’m not sure we are really ready to hear this:
“That man isn’t her husband. Don’t you know? The rumor is she has a brodkorb.”
What makes a coined word or phrase catch on and become part of the language?