I received an IM from a friend at 1:30 this morning. It read, “George, Have your girls called you on the Wifey word yet? Has JoAnne? None of my business, but it is not a respectful word if you examine the historical context. Just an FYI.”
Now, I’ve been calling JoAnne “Wifey” for the last 37 years. It honestly never occurred to me that it was anything but a term of endearment. And, to answer my friend’s question, no, neither my daughters (all 3 of them) nor JoAnne have objected in any way to the word. In fact, they all think it’s cute. Everyone I’ve told about the blog tells me it’s a cute name. I was going for cute. More on that in a minute.
So, it’s 3 in the morning, and I’m lying in bed wondering what awful thing I’ve been calling my best friend for the last 4 decades. Surely Google can help. So I google “wifey” and up pops these definitions:
Shit. Really? I’m an insensitive boob, and didn’t even know it. Worse than that, the #MeToo people may be coming after me at any moment. And I paid for the domain name for the next 5 years.
Further down the page, Google offers a bunch of links in addition to this pair of depressing definitions. So I click on the Urban Dictionary link. “The girl you’re in love with.” “The girl that is always there for you. The one you were destined to be with. See hubby” Now that’s more like it!
So which is it? Words change over time. Meanings shift. I google “words that change meaning over time.” 909 million results. Did you know that “nice” used to mean “silly, foolish, simple”? Or that “awful” originally meant “worthy of awe” as in awesome? In
Chaucer’s day, “girl” meant a young person of either sex. Naughty used to mean poor, as in having naught. And “cute” still means “clever or cunning, especially in a self-seeking or superficial way” in some circles.
But what about “wifey?” It appears that its meaning has morphed over time. In fact, it’s still morphing. It’s been picked up by Hip Hop artists and appears in some songs. I’m getting all this from Google. Hip Hop’s not my thing. As best I can understand it, “wifey” means a nice girl that you could take home to your family and marry one day. As opposed to a “naughty” girl who may be a lot more fun. A piece in The Washington Post in May of 2018 declares, “The term ‘wifey’ is sexist and infantilizing.” The article manages to get a picture Kim Kardashian and Kanye West into the mix. I’m a little lost on this one.
My friend seems to be making the case that the historical meaning still pertains. Maybe. But my friend is “nice” and my daughters think wifey is “cute,” and in both cases the current, widely understood meaning of those words is the correct one. I respectfully disagree with my friend’s understanding of the meaning of “wifey” today. The word has clearly evolved and apparently continues to do so. I don’t think the definition from the 1700s is particularly relevant. This new definition clearly isn’t relevant in the context of this blog or my relationship to my wife of almost 4 decades.
I can choose to abandon Travel with Wifey because of the etymology of the word, or the interpretation of members of a generation that is very unlikely to ever read this blog. If more people react the way my friend has, I may have to. It’s certainly not my intention to offend anyone nor to disrespect JoAnne. I also call JoAnne “JoAnnie.” I actually googled “JoAnnie”—looks like that one is safe.