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Old 09-20-2003, 04:38 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 400
"Confirmed Bachelor"/"Old Maid" - what mean exactly?

Years ago, I remember hearing that these were, at one time, very specific terms.

IIRC (it sometimes happens) the definition hinged on age - if a person had obtained the specified age without ever marrying, then the label applied.

And yes, I believe the age was lower for women than for men.

Anyone recall these definitions?
Old 09-20-2003, 05:25 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posts: 8,379
An "old maid" is defined as an elderly unmarried woman. A "spinster" is synonymous, but is an unmarried woman, quite literally of any age (I'm 40, and I class myself as a spinster, rather than an old maid.)

A "confirmed bachelor" is a single man of any age who is not likely to change his marital status, either at all or any time soon. Usually said of men who choose to stay single, rather than get left "on the shelf" as with spinsters and old maids.
Old 09-20-2003, 06:01 PM
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 63
In some English non-tabloid newspapers (afaik) 'Confirmed Bachelor' seems to be used to say someone is homosexual. I've seen it a couple of times, although I'm unsure if it was just co-incidence because it's a corollary of the above reason, or actually is house style.

Old 09-20-2003, 06:06 PM
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Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Near the GT eeehhhh...
Posts: 27,334
I always thought that all those terms involved the element of choice.
Rigardu, kaj vi ekvidos.
Look, and you will begin to see.
Old 09-20-2003, 06:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posts: 8,379
Originally posted by Sunspace
I always thought that all those terms involved the element of choice.
Spinster and old maid carry with them the connotation of pity for the subjects at hand, Sunspace. I haven't seen "confirmed spinster" used all that much. There is still the belief out there in the western world, at least, that if you're female, of fertile age, and you're not shacked up with someone else, in whatever status, there's something wrong.

After fertile age, well, you've just missed your chance, and you'll be "Auntie Such-and-such" for the rest of your days.
Old 09-23-2003, 12:57 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 3,145
"Spinster" does indeed have a pejorative quality to it. The implication being that if she is not married or otherwise attached by the age of x, she is a lost cause. While we would like to think that we are above such arbitrary judgments about individual worthiness, the same stigma is often tagged on those who admit to being virgins beyond their teens.

I've heard "confirmed bachelor" as a euphemism for a gay man before, but it was always with the understanding that this was not the ordinary meaning of the phrase.

A confirmed bachelor in its original sense might best be seen as someone who is asexual out of choice rather than because he is “hopeless” (though he well might be that also). On the one hand, you have the old-fashioned intellectual (think Henry Higgins) who sees women as inferior creatures – silly, frivolous, and empty headed. On the other you have the middle aged grouch, married to his job, who washes his socks in the sink and feels that having a woman in the house would just mess up his routine. Confirmed bachelors are usually seen as not interested in a relationship rather than incapable of one. Or at least that's how they see themselves.
Old 09-23-2003, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: nearby
Posts: 1,480
Confirmed bachelor has been gay for this and most of the last century.

Before that it meant either gay or too much of a hound dog to marry. But usually gay.

Old Maid means no one would marry her.

Spinster could mean simply unmarried or suggest that the lady in question would not marry out of being mean or lesbian.
Old 09-23-2003, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2001
Posts: 26,213
I always thought a "confirmed bachelor" was someone like Seinfield, Sam Malone from Cheers or Joey from Friends - a guy who was largely incapable of anything other than frivilous relationships and one night stands.

"Old maid" sort of connotates a woman who is not only of a certain age and single but also incapable of attracting a man. Think Patty and Selma from The Simpsons.

Generally becoming an "old maid" is considered scarier than being a "confirmed bachelor". At least that's how it is portrayed in media. The confirmed bachelor is always the successful playboy executive. He would settle down if only he could give up his womanizing ways. The old maid on the other hand is the lonely old spinster. Spending her remaining years with her 6 cats and her cigarettes waiting for death.
Old 09-23-2003, 01:33 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Thursday
Posts: 941
In my job, I see marriage certificates from around the world, and more often than not, under the bride's name (regardless of her age - many I see were only 18 at the time of the marriage) it says "spinster", and under the groom's name it says "bachelor".
I think of "spinster" and "bachelor" as technical terms identifying the marital status of the individual, along with "widow/er".
Old Maid I think of as a more pitying term.
Old 09-23-2003, 01:58 PM
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 41,546
"Spinster" originally meant a female spinner -- someone who spun threads. As this was the common lot of women in centuries past, it wasn't much of a distinction, and I get the feeling its original use was sort of euphemistic. In any case, I also always felt that both "Old Maid" and "Spinster" suggested someone who couldn't attract a man. You sure get that impression from the game "Old Maid". No one plays "Confirmed Bachelor."

"Confirmed bachelor" seems to be someone who didn't want to get married, and I suspect that it's the double standard at work -- men are single because they want to be, women because they have to be. Certainly it seems to often carry a connotation of "homosexual", but I don't think that's invariably the case. Roger Moore played a "confirmed bachelor" in the movie ffolkes, which was made at a time when they could easily have said directly that the character was a homosexual. They didn't, and I didn't get the sense that he was. Nor did I ever get the sense that Sherlock Holmes, or Nero Wolfe were, either. Some people just don't want to live their lives with another.

Curiously, although you'd think there's just as much reason to do so, no one ever seems to assume that spinsters or Old Maids are lesbians.
“Of course,” said my grandfather, stepping from the Time Machine and pulling a gun from his belt, “There’s no paradox if I shoot you!”

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