What does Biddy Mean?

What kind of a name is Biddy and where did it come from?Biddy

That’s one of the most frequent questions people ask about Mrs. Oswald Chambers.

The answer is pretty simple, but let’s see if you can guess.

What does the noun Biddy mean?

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “biddy” can mean:

  1.  a hired girl or cleaning woman

  2. usually disparaging :  woman; especially :  an elderly woman

It can also refer to a young hen.

These definitions don’t really apply to the woman whose parents named her Gertrude Annie Hobbs.

Her family called her “Gert” or “Truda,” until Oswald Chambers bestowed a nickname on her.

She was 25 years-old and it stuck for the rest of her life.

Oswald Chambers and nicknames

Oswald Chambers had a keen sense of humor and loved to give nicknames to the people close to him.

Chambers Biddy

 Biddy and Oswald circa 1912

While the principal of the Bible Training College (BTC), he nicknamed several students:

Gladys Ingram became “Gladiolus,” and that’s how he often referred to her in letters.

He sometimes called his friend Charles Rae Griffin, “Radiant” Griffin.

Eva Spink easily morphed into Sphinx or Spinkie.

As Oswald and Biddy named their daughter Kathleen, they chose to call Gertrude Kathleen Ballinger, “Bill.”

It made differentiating the two easier in conversation.

Why Biddy?

Oswald and Gert Hobbs spent ten days together traveling from England to America in 1908.

What had originally begun as a favor to Gert’s mother (to keep an eye on her daughter traveling alone), soon changed to a joy for Oswald.

They two shared long conversations over meals, tea, and while walking the decks on a summer voyage.

Oswald kept stumbling over the witty young woman’s name.

His favorite sister was Gertrude. He needed to differentiate the two in his mind.

He proposed a nickname to the woman–who possessed an equally keen sense of humor.

How about “Beloved Disciple?”

Biddy

1959 signature (Courtesy Marlene Ankerberg)

What would you do if someone suggested calling you “Beloved Disciple?”

How could Gert say no?

But “Beloved Disciple,” is a mouthful and so he shortened it to “B.D.”

If you say “B.D.” frequently, you can hear how it easily slides into “Biddy.”

And that’s who Gertrude Annie Hobbs Chambers referred to herself for the rest of her life.

As did her mother, sister, brother, friends and everyone else for the last 109 years.

When she compiled her husband’s books and wrote introductions, including to My Utmost for His Highest, she signed herself “B.C.”

Of course, she lived up to the name, Beloved Disciple, for both her husband and her God.

Tweetables

Where did Biddy Chambers’ name come from? Click to Tweet

Nicknames and Oswald Chambers: the source of Biddy’s name. Click to Tweet

Was Mrs. Oswald Chambers’ name really Biddy? Click to Tweet

Every month in 2017, I’ll be telling the stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonished–reactions while writing Mrs. Oswald Chambersbiographer ancestry

The next newsletter comes out April 18: In which my husband’s business trip results in a shocking surprise.

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1 Comment

  1. Fascinating.

    For me, ‘Biddy’ was always one of a pair of cows, Biddy and Bossy. Bossy was laid-back, and Biddy was bossy.

    A happy Easter to you and yours, Michelle!

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/04/your-dying-spouse-297-easter-rising-and.html

    Reply

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