Words: Hostess

Share
Related Topics
Children taken to parties used to be told to behave and to be sure to say a nice thank you to the hostess, most likely remembered as a stately dame with what the French would call beaucoup de monde au balcon. Later, hostesses presided (always the word) over the afternoon teacakes and scones, and were gracious. Modern hostesses of this sort have little in common with the wide-eyed 17-year-old "Soho hostess" who, according to reports, befriended the Tory MP Piers Merchant, apart from the name they share.

It makes you think how vague English is, but it's good to know that the Romans who gave us the word were even more imprecise. The hospes (feminine hospita could be either the host or the guest; hospites were friends of whom one was entertaining the other, with no distinction as to which was which. To confuse matters further, a hospes could be either a friend or a stranger, because of the tradition of giving hospitality to travellers, so that all innkeepers were called hospes or hosts.

Hostis, a related word, had also meant a stranger - thence an enemy, thence a hostile army, and, in its English version, any large number of people or even things - the multitude of the heavenly host, say, or the hosts of guests whom a host invited to his party, as well as the host of things they discussed at it. None of this is to do with the host which is the consecrated bread of the Eucharist and which comes from the quite different hostia, a sacrificial victim. I'm surprised that the inclusivists, who like to refer to Spitfire pilots as "he or she", haven't got to work on hostess, seeing that a female prostitute may be described as a hostess while a male one is seldom called a host. We're as bad as the ancient Greeks, for whom a hetaira was a female companion or a tart, according to context.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week