|Image by Martin Olsson|
As it turns out, hourglasses are pretty darn old, but nowhere near ancient. The word--and the device--originated round about 1510. And so, you'd think that an hourglass shape would have come not long after, right? It's pretty distinctive. And applies so well to the female form, that surely someone made the connection early on. Right?
Wrong. According to etymonline.com, no one thought to call a woman's figure hourglass until 1897, after corsets had been exaggerating those shapes for half a century. Here's one of the first written mentions of it:
Men condemn corsets in the abstract, and are sometimes brave enough to insist that the women of their households shall be emancipated from them; and yet their eyes have been so generally educated to the approval of the small waist, and the hourglass figure, that they often hinder women who seek a hygienic style of dress. [Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, "The Story of My Life," 1898]
And since the sands are flowing and I have a book to finish writing today (woot!), I say farewell!