Transatlantic Avaitrix

I am not embarrassed to say that when I was growing up, I loved language and grammar classes. Prefixes, suffixes, latin roots…what joy. It’s why I, along with 6 330 537 pendants can’t get enough of the Grammarly Facebook site. Bite size doses of grammar with a pinch of grammar snobbery. Bliss.

I am especially drawn to the subject of today’s wrap – Amelia Earhart – who on the morning of May 20, 1932, took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to fly solo across the Atlantic, with a copy of that day’s local newspaper to confirm the date of the flight. After about 12 hours in the air, the plane began to experience mechanical difficulties and she knew she wasn’t going to make it to her intended destination of Paris. So Earhart identified a field just outside the small village of Culmore, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and landed, transatlantic mission still accomplished.

As only the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license by the world governing body for aeronautics, The Federation Aeronautique, Earhart was one gutsy lady at a time when aviation was in its infancy and the blokes took the pilot’s controls more often than not. She had several other notable flights as the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. She flew right into the record books and also into history. In 1937, she mysteriously disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe from the equator and was legally declared dead in 1939. She  remains history’s most famous aviatrix.

Aviatrix I hear you say? Well yes…aviatrix is the terribly  unfashionable and un PC female version of the word aviator. I don’t necessarily approve of the sexist terminology – I should write Amelia Earhart was a pioneer woman aviator –  but I am fascinated by the suffix trix. And here’s why. Trix is derived from Latin and has been used since the 15th century in relation to feminine agent nouns that correspond to a masculine (in Latin) or generic (in English) agent noun ending in -tor.

So from aviator we get aviatrix and in a similar vein….benefactor and benefactrix, executor and executrix,  administrator and administratrix, inheritor and inheritrix, legislator and legislatrix; orator and oratrix. You get the picture. Thankfully we don’t see these words around too often any more and even the legal profession has moved on. But there’ a certain slice of history in them and they can make for a fantastic word score in Scrabble.

Trix is not on its own in denoting the female form of a masculine or generic agent noun. Exactly I hear you say…what about the French -enne (as in comedienne, doyenne and equestrienne)  -ess (as in stewardess, lioness, goddess and countess) or even -ette (as in majorette, usherette and the big one bachelorette)? There’s an intriguing list if ever there were one, presenting hours of derivation research.

But trix is still my favourite, which is why my wrapping today honours Amelia Earhart with a replica of some of the mail covers that were produced in her honour and bear the term Amelia Earhart Aviatrix. Stamps and first day covers add a great touch and a decent dollop of history to wrapping so keep them in mind. They are a great option for all the gift wrapping creators and creatrixes out there.


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