Thursday, March 20, 2008

Terms of Endearment

I have discovered a collection of about a dozen letters written to my grandmother, Myrtle Van Every, from her father, Melvin, between 1925-1927. Lots of new information, including a first name to the mystery individual she was married to between 1927-1929.

(Dale. As I mention in the timeline I posted a few days ago, I already knew the surname was Ridgely. So my current suspicion is Dale B Ridgely, born in 1900 about 150 miles east of St. Louis in Richland, IL, and who is listed in the 1930 census in San Francisco, as divorced, and first married at age 27. Everything matches up, except no real documentation. In 1929 he was a 1st Lieutenant in the Dental Corps Reserve, in 1946 a Lt Col, and by 1957 a Brig. Gen. The internet is truly amazing.)

Each letter from her father begins with "Dear machen"

All I can find on that word is that it is either German, or a misspelling of the Dutch for the verb "to make". I'm not sure how that translates into a term of endearment.

Are there any German or Dutch speakers out there familiar with a noun-form of the word 'Machen'?


Miriam Robbins said...

John, I was reminded at once of Little Women, where Professor Bhaer refers to a little girl as Mädchen. I see it also spelled as maedchen. It literally means "girl," but you are right, it is a term of endearment, similar to how we would refer to a beloved young girl as "Missy."

Miriam Robbins said...

P.S. It is German, not Dutch.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that certainly makes sense.

Steve Danko said...

Here's my guess, John: In German, the suffix -chen is used as a diminutive. Machen could have been a pet name the father had for the daughter, with the suffix having the intent of "little".

On another note, as Miriam said, the German word Mädchen means "girl" but can be interpreted as "little woman". Perhaps Louisa May Alcott intentionally used the word "mädchen" in her novel Little Women for this reason.

Anonymous said...

Dale B. Ridgely was my maternal grandfather, born Mar 8, 1900 in Olney, IL, died June 17, 1992 in San Antonio, Tx. He was married to your grandmother circa 1926/27? It was a very brief marriage, and they divorced in 1927, I believe. He then went on to marry my grandmother, Lilyann Wallace, and Myrtle went on to marry your grandfather.

John said...

Yes, the marriage was very brief.

The Divorce Complaint is transcribed here: