What is this matushka? Let's first investigate some of the sassy responses:
- Those nesting Russian dolls? Phonetically close.
- A Russian grandma? No, and we have it from our grandma that this is a derogatory term, loosely equated to "hag." And she's actually been to Russia even lived in Russia; don't you wish your grandma could say that??? She's just one awesome lady, but I thought I'd throw that out there. Baba does sound like it'd be easy for a baby to say... ... ...? [Alex's edit: Babushka is the full word. I knew that.]
- My tush... something. Ok, that kinda fell flat.
What is this matushka word?
In Baptist people's terms, it's the preacher's wife.
--and now we get to talk about how wonderful this is and how much we love language!
The Russian is Матушка, and I'm told it means 'little mother'. Although, I appreciate that we actually recognize the wife as a counterpart of her husband (Oh, we can't spoil it, yet.) why do we have to rely on the Russian transliteration? Why not, "Little Mother" Jenkins?--but that may be my latent lingophobia.... or any number of things. I'll only say we don't call her husband papa but rather priest or father.
Because this lady has her own title, her own position, we recognize that she actually has a job to do! Oh, ladies, how low have we gone that I'm excited about a woman having her own word? She has a title! --with MULTIPLE syllables! This says she actually does something. Her life--and let's not dismiss, her appearance-- is under more scrutiny than the other women. Right or wrong or just tiring and inconvenient more is expected-- be it more food at a potluck or more frequent attendance at church. This happens to wives of people in leadership positions (e.g. the First Lady) whether they want it or no, but not everyone gets a word.
Oh, to have a name. A title. ^_^ You can see that, right? My name in lights! AND CAPS
My mother was a mere accessory to my father, the Baptist preacher. There came a time when she'd had it with the expectation that the preacher's family would always bring three times the food to a potluck as anyone else. I believe the eureka moment for her was when she said, "If you eat food, you should bring food." Over the next two years, I made about six thousand (five dozen at a time) chocolate chip cookies. Hey, I had a title (PK). I had a job: Make cookies until people didn't want the preacher's family to bring ANYTHING! --and I was a cute little girl. What monster would say something to me???
Now we get to the thing you know. Yes, you know something. Go on! Get up and shake ya booty! *does happy dance* YAY! We know something!
If you elevate the priest to father, you must elevate the priest's wife to mother, because they are one. This is the thing you know. Now, go out into the world and apply it to all the people! WAIT! First, a lesson in etiquette.
Okay, now how to use these vocabulary words. If you are introducing the couple, say, "This is Priest Bob Jenkins and Matushka Amy," and of course reciprocate with the other parties. You might add what church they're associated with and, if you're in a different town, the town, too. If only the wife is there, you'd say, "Matushka Amy Jenkins." If you're speaking with them, you'd say, "Priest Bob, I have a sandwich for you," or "Matushka, I have a sandwich for you," (Matushka Amy if you're at a matushka convention which are quite impromptu) or "Father, I have a sandwich for you," or "I have a sandwich for you." Or, my personal favorite, just hold up a sandwich and look inquiring. Talking is overrated. Talk less. Life is simpler that way. The only requirement is that you actually have said sandwich, and you're willing to part with it. --and some awareness of the calendar is appreciated. If you offer something that can't be eaten for religious reasons, it's about two steps down from offering someone whose lactose intolerant something with milk, and one step down from a vegan finding out that you used chicken bouillon in something you cooked for them. Acceptable, but a faux pas, nonetheless, for those trusted to be in the know. If you're not expected to be in the know, you get brownie points. The Joy of Cooking, which is an excellent middle-of-the-road guideline on these things, reads:
"Unless you know your guests' food preferences well, avoid daunting animal parts or overly spicy foods; inquire discreetly about food allergies or vegetarian tendencies if you think that's appropriate." (11, under the heading "About the Menu")
A Girl Who Grew up as a PK, A Woman who Married into the O's
Rombauer, Irma S., Rombauer Becker, Marian, Becker, Ethan. "Entertaining." Joy of Cooking. New York: Scribner, 1997. Cookbook.
PS: Everything this lady said, and I'd go ten miles further on the green hair. Let's have a MAHtushka (Remember, AWKward?) with green hair. I had black toe nails for probably a decade and (when I felt I could get away with it) black nails to detract from the stereotype that the color of your nail polish reflects the quality of your person. My motivation was my family's negative reaction to a cousin. I had a better track record than her, but it had nothing to do with nail polish. I liked her. She was kind to me. I was even less eloquent as an eleven year old, but my dad stopped worrying after only two or three conversations. Who knows if he understood then, but I think it chipped away at his stereotyping a bit.