Honeymoons, babymoons, and the surprising origin story of -moon words
When the word was coined, honeymoon involved neither honey nor tropical getaways
Will and Kate are going on a babymoon.
I have no recollection of seeing this word babymoon previously. And yet the meaning was immediately clear to me: They're going on a vacation before they have the baby — their last vacation without offspring to worry about for, say, 18 years.
Is this going to be the start of a trend of –moon words? After all, we already have loads of –cations: Is your vacation a staycation? Perhaps a nearcation? Just a daycation? Or is it a zen-cation, a pray-cation, a spa-cation… Or maybe it's just a fake-cation! We hope it's not really a work-cation.
We're a very travel- and leisure-oriented society. And so I can see a similar trend possible with –moon words. It's something else you can go on! Is your honeymoon just a short one? Must be a mini-moon! Or are you bringing parents, siblings, or perhaps children? Then it's a family-moon! And, yes, if it's your last romantic getaway before children eat your life, it must be a babymoon.
An important thing to notice with the –moon words so far is that they all maintain a similarity of sound. The vowel sound before moon is always [i], and the words have the same — or close enough — rhythm.
What other –moons await? Winning a lottery isn't common enough to give us a moneymoon for a trip taken with the winnings. We can leave it up to travel promoters to come up with the usual brutish Frankensteinings such as ski-moon and spa-moon. And we know we can rely on Urban Dictionary to give us hornymoon for when couples are reunited after a time apart and spend much of the first few days in the sack. (It seems to me it would also be a nice term for a "wicked weekend" by an unwed pair.)
All of these coinages trade on some similarity to the original meaning of honeymoon: romance, travel, new starts. They don't all trade on the same aspects. Which aspects they go with naturally has something to do with what we need or want a word for. It seems to be a thing now for people to get in a last trip before spawning, hence babymoon. But what if it were more of a thing for parents of a new infant to take some bonding time together with their progeny, like a honeymoon but now with the child?
In fact, that's the original meaning of babymoon. It appears to have been coined by Sheila Kitzinger in her 1996 book The Year after Childbirth. The idea is not to take a trip with the child — I can't think that that would be a most excellent idea anyway — but just to spend it at home without the distraction of work, parents, and baby all together.
That's actually closer to the original use of honeymoon, too. Your honeymoon was not necessarily a trip you took right after getting married; rather, it was that period of delight — all sweet (and perhaps sticky) like honey — that followed in the time of a moon's cycle after the wedding, and by implication, would wane about as surely.
It is this sense that's really at play when you talk about the honeymoon period in a new job: the first flush of excitement before the shine starts to wear off. It just happens that we have developed a tradition of newlyweds going off to get away from everyone else while they're in their first full flush — not just to spare them from everyone else, but also to spare everyone else from them.
Everything new and shiny has a period of enthusiasm before the tarnish starts to set in. Even "Call Me Maybe" had its Carlymoon; new word-coining fads certainly will. Some of these coinage patterns are quite durable — there seems to be an inexhaustible supply of –gate scandals and different things to be an –aholic of — but sometimes their honeymoon is quite short. I'm frankly sick of –cation words, partly because I feel like they're mostly marketing ideas being forced on me. And really, –moon words are also quite susceptible to that. I'm not one much given to word-hates — I love new fun things in language — but I'm wondering if I won't be over the –moon rather soon. How about you?