The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other


". . . in 1220 the noun husband meantone who tilled and cultivated the earth {the husband has worked hard to produce this crop}. About 1420 it became a verb meaning to till, cultivate, and tend crops {you must husband your land thoughtfully}."

--from The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Ed.

CMS used this example to show how a word can transform from a noun to become a verb over time. C.S. Lewis once noted how words have "memory"--that is, their meaning changes over time, but we can learn something about ourselves when we understand their older meanings.

In this case, we are struck with an insight. Husband once meant, essentially, farmer. When we spoke of a man as a husband, we were calling him a farmer. And later, when that man would husband, it meant that he was farming.

Of course, that meaning is completely obscure for us today. Yet, metaphorically, it still retains much of that same idea. Today, a husband must "till and cultivate." Only his farming is not of land but of a relationship and of a woman and a family. His work is not done with a horse or a plow but with words and with service. It is a husband's job to cultivate his fields to produce good crops, and he must work hard to do so.

My grandfather was a farmer. He awoke before dawn to feed the cattle. He worked late into the August nights to harvest the milo. He toiled against the hard ground of winter and the cold Kansas winds to plant winter wheat. And just the same, a man must work against the "natural" forces that would prevent him from harvesting a bumper crop. He must overcome the curse of the Fall to see a relationship bear profitable harvest. A man must prove his wife true when she says, "This is my husband."