Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:
Sometimes, as the Great Durante used to say, "Everybody wants to get into the act." In couvade (pronounced koo-VAHD), a man mimics symptoms of his wife's pregnancy, including experiencing or feigning labor pains, taking to bed as if exhausted by labor, undergoing various purification rituals.
The phenomenon, sometimes called sympathetic pregnancy, has both psychological and cultural aspects and has been observed in many societies; the OED's first citation is from 1865, and the term crops up most frequently in anthropological publications. Anthropologists theorize that couvade serves various purposes, such as attempting to focus evil spirits on oneself rather than on the woman, or to assert paternity.
We have the word from the French couver, "to hatch."
Example: From an article in Britain's Mirror, September 4, 2012: "Mike Dowdall, 25, suffers from morning sickness, food cravings, hot flushes and even a swollen belly - just like pregnant girlfriend Amanda Bennett. The phantom pregnancy is the result of Couvade syndrome, a rare condition which causes men to experience some of the same symptoms as expectant mums."
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