Here in Shetland, Wife is used as a word for woman,
regardless of whether she is married or not.
When we first came here we visited The White Wife at Otterswick, the figurehead from the German training ship Bohus, wrecked in 1924. 4 lives were lost from a crew of 38 plus a stowaway! There is a black marble commemoration slab, set in stone from nearby isle of Hascosay, in Mid Yell kirkyard.
I said to John, ‘why is it called The White Wife? Did they know she was married or what?’ I soon learned that the new ‘wife’ at the bakery was very good at bread and the wife next door was hanging out her washing etc, etc. A small girl is a ‘peerie wife’ – a ‘little’ wife.
This is used quite normally in conversation and anyone I ask, ‘why?’ has no answer, it just is!
The White Wife on East Yell is worth a visit. You have to park up and walk along the cliff top grass with the sea boiling on the rocks below and she suddenly appears, projecting out towards the sea.