Monday, September 03, 2012


We were talking to each other in the hospital waiting room about the run around the weather has given us with trying to get laundry out to to dry.

She agreed and said, "We have a mrrrmmn..."
Her son agreed and said, "Yes we have a "mrrrmmn..."
They did not have local accents.

I queried, "You have a...?"
"Yes" they both replied in unison.
I tried again; "I'm sorry what was it you said you had?"

They said, "A mrrrmmn."

I wondered if there was something wrong with my hearing. Trying again, I asked more specifically, "What was that last word, please."

She said, "M a i d e n, we've got a washing maiden."

Naturally, I wondered what the maiden did, and asked.

"Oh's not a person, it's an airer, an airer on which to air the washing"

This was new use of vocabulary to my ears. My curiosity was stoked up; "Where are you from?"

They were from Lancashire, U.K. and there, where they were from, an airer, or a clothes horse, was a 'washing maiden'.

Looking directly at her, and hoping I smiled benignly, I observed "That's rather sexist."

Looking directly back at me and leaning forward in her wheelchair, with fire in her eyes, the woman said, "Yes it is, isn't it."

I reckon from now on, there'll be no more 'washing maidens' in that house. Notwithstanding, It was such an interesting socially based description, certainly one of its time, and probably a description from a specific village or small town within a large Northern county.



snowbird said...

Hahahahaha....this had me laughing out loud.I love the sound of the mrrrmnnnnnn.....and the thought of the woman with fire in her eyes.xxxxx

ZACL said...

I thought I had a 'vigorous discussion' on my hands, snowbird. Instead, I have to admit, I was surprised by the emphatic agreement to the gender comment. I'm sure if the lady could have stood up, and on a soapbox, she would have pounded out her agreement.

Rebb said...

That was an entertaining and informative anecdote, ZACL. I felt like I was there. A priceless moment!

Flighty said...

It's a clothes horse in this part of the county, washing maiden is a 'northern' term.
Such variations can certainly cause confusion can't they. Flighty xx

ZACL said...

It 's not everyday you have such an enlightening and amusing moment in a hospital waiting area, Rebb. Thank you for your comment.

ZACL said...

Hello Mr F,

I grew up knowing about clothes horses and airers; first the pulley ones that sat up at ceiling height and then the hinged, with broad webbing, wooden ones which stood on the floor, which in turn were more-or-less superceded by the lightweight varieties that sat over baths, concertina types with three or four sections that balanced and stood on 'wispy' legs. There was also the stand-up concertina one that is still around and made of wood and lightweight metals that are plastic coated. As for the poor maidens.....least said soonest mended!