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  • (noun) - (1) In the North of England and in Scotland, a midwife is called a howdy, or howdy-wife. I take howdy to be a diminutive of how, and to be derived from this almost obsolete opinion of old women. I once heard an etymology of howdy to the following effect: "How d'ye"--midwives being great gossipers. --John Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquities, 1813 (2) Brand sneers at the derivation from "'how d'ye'--midwives being great gossipers," but I think that which he supplies is far more ridiculous. I have not been fortunate enough to discover any original to my satisfaction, but I may perhaps be permitted to observe, in defence of what has been so much ridiculed, that "how d'ye" is a natural enough salutation to a sick woman from the midwife, who, by the way, is called in German die Wehmutter, or "oh dear mother." --John Brockett's Glossary of North Country Words, 1825

    February 8, 2018