"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 9 November 2008


I came across hussifry in Allan Mallinson's "The Nizam's Daughters". Google didn't want to define hussifry and offered me huswifery, another equally attractive word (meaning 'The business of a housewife; female domestic economy and skill'), instead. It was then that I realised they were one and the same thing. Huswifery was pronounced with a silent 'w' and a short 'i'.

The UK National Archives include an indenture of apprenticeship (by churchwardens and overseers) of Elizabeth Treacher of Sonning, a pauper child, to Humphry Ball of Sonning, to learn 'the art of Hussifry'. It seems that the term was commonplace in the 17th Century but gradually declined though it's male equivalent, 'husbandry', remained. Huswifery was the title of a poem by the puritan poet Edward Taylor (ca. 1642-1729) and Thomas Hardy used the term 'hussif'ry' in his poem The Bullfinches in 1902.

Interestingly the only remant of the term now seems to be the pejorative term 'hussy'.

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