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Permanent link for this word: Darby and Joan


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Eponymous pairs

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Alphonse and Gaston
Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Jekyll and Hyde
Mutt and Jeff
Darby and Joan

Darby and Joan
Darby and Joan
A postcard painting
(Artist unknown; photo: Aida Yared)

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Darby and Joan

PRONUNCIATION:
(DAHR-bee uhn joan)

MEANING:
noun: A devoted old couple leading a quiet, uneventful life.

ETYMOLOGY:
After a couple named in an 18th century poem in The Gentleman's Magazine (London).

NOTES:
In 1735 Henry Woodfall, a printer's apprentice, wrote a ballad titled "The joys of love never forgot: a song" about a happily married elderly couple. His inspiration for those characters was his own boss John Darby and his wife Joan:
"Old Darby, with Joan by his side,
You've often regarded with wonder:
He's dropsical, she is sore-eyed,
Yet they're never happy asunder ..."
As you can imagine, he wrote this poem after Darby's death. This poem in turn became an inspiration for follow-up poems and eventually Darby and Joan became a metaphor. In the UK, clubs for old people are still called Darby and Joan clubs.

USAGE:
"On the shores of holy Lake Manosarovar there is a nameless hotel run by a very elderly couple, a sort of Tibetan Darby and Joan."
Karen Swenson; At Tibetan Hotels, Don't Expect the Light To Be Left On; The Wall Street Journal (New York); Dec 4, 2001.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It is good to rub and polish your mind against that of others. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

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