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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mating season

Yesterday my cab driver called me "mate". A lot.

"All right, mate. Liverpool Street, mate?"

It was strange. It felt wrong. Darling. Babe. Sweetheart. Love. I am used to these from our cheeky London cabbies. But "mate" sounded a bit... odd.

Which is strange in itself, that I find it odd. I happily call my male friends "mate". My female friends and I also "mate" each other. So to speak. Stop picturing it.

But there was something odd about a total stranger calling a woman "mate". And I can't think of any of my male friends who use the term towards women - friends or not - either.

And then I started thinking about the word and its etymology. I have an English degree, so I am allowed to use words like "etymology". Even if it does make me sound a bit poncey. According to Wikipedia (which of course is never wrong), "Mate is a colloquialism with sketchy origins, although it is theorised that it started with use by dock workers in the Victorian era. It might also be derived from the Dutch word 'maat' which means the same as mate in English."

So it could be to do with ships mates. Possibly. I'll be honest with you; I kind of hoped I'd find more comedy in this one. But it's been educational if anything. Do you think I could apply for some sort of grant?

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