A Word for Wednesday

Leman - n. A sweetheart; a gallant, or a mistress

This is one of those Old English words that will probably never be commonly used again. And that's perfectly fine with me. I know I normally pick words that I want brought back into use, but I cannot recommend that guys start calling their girls lemans or vice versa. That would just be...odd.

So, why did I choose it? Well, A) it's really rather amusing to insert "leman" into pick-up lines you've heard before. Try it. It's fun. B) Chaucer and Spenser used it in their most famous works. Most words I find for Wednesdays don't have a single literary passage to accompany them. This one has fourteen. Yes, fourteen. I may never use this word again outside of this post, but it's a rare excuse to put classic works on my screen and yours.

"Then came he to the carpentere's house,
And still he stood under the shot window;
Unto his breast it raught, it was so low;
And soft he coughed with a semisoun' (low tone)
"What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun?
My faire bird, my sweet cinamome,
Awaken, leman mine, and speak to me."
- The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Say that last line out loud (with a British accent if you can manage it): "Awaken, leman mine, and speak to me." Oh, I laugh. I laugh.

Apparently, women used it as a title too:

"'Now, deare leman,' quoth she, 'go, fare wele:
But ere thou go, one thing I will thee tell.
When that thou wendest homeward by the mill,
Right at the entry of the door behind
Thou shalt a cake of half a bushel find,
That was y-maked of thine owen meal,
Which that I help'd my father for to steal.
And goode leman, God save thee and keep.'
And with that word she gan almost to weep." 
- The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Spenser's work has an entirely different flavor to it. Of which I now give you a taste:

"Then like a Faerie knight him selfe he drest,
For ever shape on him he could endow;
Then like a king he was to her exprest,
And offered kingdoms unto her in view,
To be his Leman and his Lady trew:
But when all this he nothing saw prevaile,
With harder meanes he cast her to subdew,
And with sharpe threates her often did assayle;
So thinking for to make her stubborne corage quayle."
- The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

"Then forth the sad Aemylia issewed
Yet trembling every joynt through former
And after her the Hag, there with her mewed,
A foule and lothsome creature, did appeare,
A leman fit for such a lover deare."
- The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

One more, just because I like it.

"'O great Orgoglio! greatest under skye
O! hold thy mortall hand for Ladies sake;
Hold for my sake, and doe him not to dye,
But vanquisht thine eternall bondslave make,
And me, thy worthy meed, unto thy Leman take.
He hearkned, and did stay from further harmes,
[...] From that day forth Duessa was his deare,
And highly honourd in his haughtie eye."
- The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser

Okay, I think I've sufficiently flooded you all with passages for the day (or night, since it's taken me way, way too long to finish this post and push the 'publish' button). My word-inspired story snippet is all that's left. Normally, I have a decent idea by now and am ready, even eager, to write it. It hasn't really worked out that way this time. 'Cause I'm a sentence away and still drawing a blank. I guess we'll just see how this goes...

"She's no good for you," Jay said, adding a lime to the other fruits he was juggling.

"Will you stop with the juggling?" I snatched one of the oranges out of the air. "We're in the grocery store, not the circus. And stop telling me to dump my girl."


He threw the fruits back into their bins one at a time while keeping the others in the air. The handful of other shoppers around us clapped and smiled and started talking about him. I left him to take his signature bow and headed for the frozen pizzas.

"Dude," he caught up. "She's a leman."

"A what?"

"A sweetheart, a mistress. Whatever. Listen to what I'm saying, she's not good for you."

"Yeah? Why? Because you said so, Mr. I-read-old-Old-English-manuscripts-for-fun? I'm supposed to be your best friend. Not Shakespeare or Chaucer or whoever you're reading all the time. So stop using their words and shut up about Scarlett."

"You are my best friend. That's why I telling you this, Chace. She will ruin you. She's already begun."


  1. Ooh, intriguing. And her name is Scarlett? With a name like that, she's almost guaranteed to be a leman. Ha! ;D

  2. What a beautifully researched post! I'm glad K.V. Briar introduced me to your blog, and I'm glad to be a new follower.

  3. Thank you, Michelle! I think I enjoy the research almost as much as the writing. And I'm glad to have you :)


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