ENGLISCH/872: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (175) Honeymoon (SB)


175. Honeymoon?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I read an article about the growing tendency amongst young grooms for treating a promise to marry not as an legally enforceable contract but to leave their brides standing at the altar, sending a note or a message to report to the bride and her family, that they "couldn't go through with it". The broom in one of these examples left the country for Tahiti, where the couple were to have travelled on their honeymoon.

Beside these breach-of-promise actions are rather difficult and delicate affairs to handle, today the idea of someone's being able to sue for not keeping a promise to marry looks anachronistic if not silly. A woman's financial security depends no longer on her marrying and usually no more than heartache and bitterness are the fruits of a broken relationship, not of every broken engagement, though.

American writer Julia Reed an her fiancé are said to have cancelled their wedding several month before the big day. In an article for "Vogue magazine", she wrote about why she decided not to walk down the aisle. To the shock of both families, Reed and her non-groom went on the honeymoon to France anyway. "What the hell," she wrote. "It was paid for, and I damn sure had the clothes for it."...

Now, what I'd like to know is, where does the word "honeymoon" derives from. I know it usually is the holiday that a newly married couple takes together. But in this context you could hardly speak of a honeymoon, could you?

Thank you very much
Yours sincerely

Arabin D. (Pakistan)


Dear Mrs D

Yes, you are right. A honeymoon is the first holiday of a newly married couple, who are called "honeymooners". And there is even the verb to "honeymoon" to go with it.

The term was first heard in the mid-16th century, and referred to love waning (getting less, lessening) like the moon, which melts like honey in the sun. Later it came to mean the first month after marriage. It is interesting how the loss of love seems to be a hidden truth or message in this old expression.

Nowadays the word is also used to describe the early period of enthusiasm or goodwill at the start of a new job, as in: "How long do you think the new president's honeymoon period will last?" Anyway, the natural waning of any kind of devotion is something everybody seems to expect.


Miranda Gobbledygook

9 November 2009