The midwife is rather more long-serving and hard-working than I realised. It is really middle English or earlier, the ‘mid’ means with, rather like ‘mit’ in German and ‘met’ in Dutch. The ‘wife’ just means woman. And before anyone gets militant feminist about the past, the word for ‘woman’ and the word for ‘wife’ are the same in modern Dutch, ‘vrouw’. (The pronunciation for the word is quite similar to that of the German ‘Frau’; just eat a few stroopwafels before you try and say it).

Perhaps it is a testament to the ubiquity of this profession–one that is far older than nursing, or that of the physician–that it enjoys this longevity. It beats the first person singular. In Chaucer’s time, less than six hundred years ago, the first person singular in English was ‘Ich’ and not ‘I’.

The obvious next question is what the plural should be. I am going to opt for midwifes to blend sarcasm and facetiousness, and so that I can get on to say that the two midwifes we have are considerably less than six hundred years old.

They are also considerably different from one another. One is turkish, the other Dutch, one has had children, one has not, one has a touch of the Earth-mother where the other has a touch of the bookworm swot.

This covers a lot of bases. It also raises a question periodically, of which one will be on call when the labour contractions start. My money’s on the labour starting the moment we touch down in the UK when we visit my parents this coming weekend for pre-Christmas. The child in question is of course mine and thus will be at least 50% as sarcastic.