SWMBO n. a woman in authority; a wife. Editorial Note: Usually jocular. Etymological Note: she who must be obeyed. The information in the 2004 cite is likely correct as to the popularization and pronunciation of this term, but the earliest use and probable origin is in the H. Rider Haggard novel She. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

4 Responses

  1. Jonathan says:

    I haven’t verified this, but I believe John Mortimer’s character Rumpole lifted the phrase from the Rider haggard novel, “She”, where it referred to an altogether more imposing figure than his browbeaten wife.

  2. Yes, I have heard that as well, but I don’t have a copy of the novel to verify it, nor do I have such a citation in any of my databases. I’ll keep my eyes open for the book.

  3. Jonathan says:

    It IS in the H Rider Haggard book, but hyphenated. From Chapter VI:

    “Slay not,” was the reply. “Four suns since was the word brought to me from ‘She-who-must-be-obeyed,’ ‘White men come; if white men come, slay them not.’ Let them be brought to the house of ‘She-who-must-be- obeyed.’

  4. Also, the phrase was popularised in the movie of the book – “She” (1965) starring Ursula Andress.

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