Can a woman be a fellow?
That was what puzzled several people who responded to a tweet last week from U.S. Representative Katie Porter, D-California.
Hi Katie...I’m a fan but just curious...why assumed wounded vet would be a fellow?— Tasha R Wiehe (@TashaWiehe) June 21, 2019
Fellow OR female...— SFLiberal (@gee3knee) June 22, 2019
"fellow" = noun - a man or boy (https://t.co/HW8oNW0Q0q) You don't really mean this, do you?
— Pamela O'Neill (@pamoneill6) June 22, 2019
As others correctly pointed out, fellow here means “a person receiving a fellowship”—a financial grant. This is just one of many historical senses of fellowship; others include “companionship,” “alliance,” “spiritual communication,” “the crew of a vessel,” “trade guild,” and “sexual intercourse.”
In the title of the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, fellowship signifies a “company” or “association.”
It’s true that “man, male person” is one of the senses of fellow, but it’s not the original one. The OED includes that sense only after many others, including “partner, companion,” “accomplice,” “comrade,” “a member of a company, college, or society,” and “something that resembles another specified thing.” In Old English, as in the Scandinavian languages from which it derives, fellow meant a companion of either sex; its sources are fé (property, money; related to modern fee) and lag (that which is laid down, an arrangement; related to law). The “man” sense of fellow didn’t come along until Middle English, in the late 14th century. The casual pronunciation feller was first recorded around 1825; fellah – attested from 1864 – was eventually shortened to fella.