old man/old woman

Discussion in 'English Only' started by oskhen, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. oskhen

    oskhen Senior Member


    I have some questions concerning the usage of "old man". I've found it to mean both "father" and "husband". I wonder which of the usages that is the most common. What would feel most natural? And are there geographical differences?

    And is it possible to use "old woman" with related meaning? In the song at this link http://www.lyricstime.com/dubliners-woman-from-wexford-lyrics.html "old man" clearly means "husband", but might "old woman" in some of the text mean "wife"? In the first line, it clearly simply means old woman, but parts of the song, the two phrases seems to be related. Could anyone please clarify this for me?

    (I hope that there's not too many questions here. I placed them in the same thread because they are closely related)
  2. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    Although you are right that "old man" can be used as an informal phrase to mean husband (and father), I don't think the first use in "She loved her old man dearly" is simply used in this way. I think it is meant to express both the relationship and the fact that he is old. In the colloquial phrase "old" does not necessarily, or even usually, refer to great age, but is a kind of term of endearment.

    When the old man calls her "ould woman" I don't think it is the female equivalent (a kind of term of endearment) that he is calling her by, but is meant literally. I don't believe he is referring to their relationship in other words.

    I don't think this is a great example of usages of "old man" and "old woman" as a familiar form of address.

    As to whether "old woman" is used in the same way as "old man" is, as form of address, I think that it is, but it seems to have an element of disrespect that is not usually intended with "old man". Of course, there is the hippy/rocker term "my old lady", which is the equivalent of "my old man" (husband or partner). I'm not sure that the female equivalents are used to mean mother though.

    As this is an Irish song, you might need the opinion of someone from Ireland as to whether "old woman" is used in the way that "old man" is.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2008
  3. Pet Korun

    Pet Korun Member

    English - Ireland
    I think yes, it's all regional.

    If you happen to be using the phrases in Ireland:

    Old man - for father
    Old wan / Old one - for mother.

    Generally you'd say "himself" or "herself" when referring to your spouse in this way.

    "Herself won't stop moaning about the bills."
    "Yeah I could go with you if 'twasn't for himself, you know what he's like!"

    (Informal hiberno English grammar - Don't try this at home!)

    It's very informal and slightly playful/disrespectful here.
  4. Banbha

    Banbha Senior Member

    Cork, Ireland
    Irish & English
    Pet Korun is completely right with the usage of old man, old wan (one), himself, herself. You can also use the old lade (from old lady, pronounced like english word paid) to refer to your mother. And collectively your parents would be 'the old folks'. We wouldnt use old man and old lade for your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend etc. Sometimes men refer to their wife as 'the misses' (from Mrs. / Ms.)
  5. Elwintee Senior Member

    London England
    England English
    In addition to the other posts I would add that 'old man' can be a friendly term used between older men ("Let me get you a drink, old man"), and just means 'my friend'.
    Beware of 'old woman': this term can be used disparagingly of a man who is too pernickity (but not necessarily effeminate) in his ways.

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