loose spouse (prying a spouse loose)


There is this phrase "loose spouse" in Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood.
The context is:

"But old habits die hard, and it’s not long before she’s casting an appraising eye over her fleece-clad fellow-travellers dithering with their wheely bags in the lobby of the first-night airport hotel. Passing over the women, she ear-tags the male members of the flock. Some have females attached to them, and she eliminates these on principle: why work harder than you need to? Prying a spouse loose can be arduous, as she discovered via her first husband: discarded wives stick like burrs."

can you explain it please, thank you.

taken from
  • Nunty

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Hello, ebru, and welcome to the forum. :)

    You seem to have mixed the phrase a bit. Your original text is "Prying a spouse loose can be arduous...". (I've changed the thread title for you.)

    The word loose goes with the word pry in this case. The expression "to pry [something/someone] loose" means to dettach it with effort. The text gives you the example of burrs. Burrs are dry parts of plants (picture) that can stick to clothes or animal fur (picture). They are very hard to detach.

    The text is saying that wives who have been discarded by their husbands (divorced or abandoned) can stick to those husbands and be very hard to detach from them.

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The word pry here is an Americanism; in BE the verb is to prise. Examples: I used a crowbar to prise the lid off (= loose from) the packing case... After long persuasion, I managed to prise the secret out of her...


    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    It's also worth noting that the author, Margaret Atwood, is Canadian. I suppose "to pry something loose" is a Canadianism, as well. ;)
    < Previous | Next >