mail-order bride

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minhduc

Senior Member
vietnamese
Hi all, would you tell me what is the meaning of "mail-order bride"? Especially in this context: "We will open the restaurant in less than a week. It's noting grand, just a nine-table restaurant in a former saloon. We're reformed the saloon like a pair of mail-order brides newly arrived on the frontier. We've painted it white, and hung striped curtains."

Thanks
 
  • NealMc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi

    Mail order brides originated with men of a certain age (ie old and rich) who find brides from developing nations. There were (are still?) agencies that provide these type of introductions along the lines of browsing through a catalogue.
    (Mail order has since been replaced by internet shopping).

    The men will tend to be old, rich and powerful, their brides will tend to be young, vulnerable and in some degree of servitude and obligation.

    Mail order brides newly arrived at the frontier will be especially vulnerable and "willing" to please.

    Cheers
    Neal Mc
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Mail order brides originated with men of a certain age (ie old and rich) who find brides from developing nations.
    No, this is not at all correct, and this is not the intended reference. The use of the word "frontier" makes it obvious that they are referring to a practice found in the 19th Century in which men (usually not old, and almost never rich) would establish farms or ranches in the wilderness of the American west or the Australian outback. In such places, respectable women who would make appropriate wives and helpmates were scarce or non-existent, so the men would place advertisements in city newspapers stating that they were looking for wives, or would answer similar advertisements placed by women, or would sometimes seek a wife through a marriage broker (also known as a "matchmaker.") A courtship would be conducted through correspondence, and if a decision were made to marry, the man would pay the woman's passage west (usually through a postal money order, and thus the phrase "mail-order bride") and would marry her upon her arrival in the territory. The idea here is that before the arrival of their more "civilized" wives, because they live in a rough and entirely male environment the farmers or ranchers are rough, uncouth, and uncivilized, but the arrival of the ladies produces a reform in cleanliness, comfort, and manners. This reform is usually accomplished not because the women are "vulnerable" and "willing to please", but instead because the women are strong and tough, and demand that changes be made to their specifications.
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    As a short addition to GWB's excellent description, "frontier" in the U.S. refers not to a national border, but to the ill-defined area where that which was considered "civilization" had not yet arrived and was still being settled.
     

    NealMc

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi

    Times have changed - and so has the concept of mail order brides.

    I do agree with GWB that the use of Saloon and Frontier place this usage of mail order bride in an older tradition than I described.

    In BE use, the concept of a mail order bride is seen as something sordid, so to return to the original question, the meaning of mail order bride can vary from something a little sordid to something quite noble - but in the context given by minhduc, GWB offers a better explanation. Context is key.

    Cheers
    Neal Mc
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Consider a mail-order bride newly arrived to the frontier: she is used to everything being relatively clean and tidy. She is also possibly quite anxious for things to start off well. She is also now responsible for the home of a former long-time bachelor, so it probably needs a lot of work just to bring it up to the level of "respectable."

    To my mind, the phrase means that they did as much cleaning as a mail-order bride would in their first days in their new homes.
     
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