Now your wife can testify against you in court. Big deal. "On March 3, Your Honor, he burnt the chlil. I made this big pot of chili -- actually, I used my Le Creuset pot, the big size, you know, that really is the most useful, though you don't know that when you start, and usually buy a smaller one that's cheaper. Well, that's what the chili was in and I said. 'Wait. Just give me 20 minutes and I'll heat it up.' But no. You know how men are. With all rspect to the bench.

"He couldn't wait, and he has the theory that if you heat up food from the icebox the idea is to get the heat to it as fast as possible.

"'Damn it,' he always says, 'the point is to get the heat to it,' and he turns the gas on full blast.

"Then he goes off to the basement to look for the bow saw -- he is constantly looking for the bow saw, though I can see very little improvement from his using it -- and of course the pot burns beyond repair.

"Just last year he burnt up an industrial grade soup pot. Couldn't wait for the minestrone to heat gradually. I don't know if you've ever dealt with burnt turnips? I do think they are the worst. Though everything else in the soup burnt, too, of course. Well, back to March 3, the day he ruint the Fench pot . . ."

Thus it will go in our courts from now on.

When the Supreme Court ruled that wives (and, I suppose, husbands) can testify against their mates, not many people cared much. Certainly, I did not.

Except for one small thing:

In the babble or chitchat or obiter dicta that the court specializes in, I noticed the observation that wives are not ca chattel" any more.

Which suggests that formerly they were.

But a chattel is a piece of property, other than land, that you can sell or give away or otherwise exercise dominin over.

A typewriter is a chattel. Though it has, of course, its iron will and is not easy to control. But you can sell it or give it away or (as all writers are tempted from time to time) pitch it right out that blank-eyed plate glass window.

But never have wives been chattels amongst us. Not only could you not sell them or give them away, but they had dower rights. For a long time, you couldn't even divorce them. Even such a fine prince as Henry VIII had trouble.

The reason they could not testify against (the husband was not that they were his slave (slaves could be sold, of course, and the testimony of slaves was not to be taken seriously in court) but because they were incorporated with him as one body.

To see what the relationship was (and of course this was a thousand years ago) you examine the pronouncements of the authorities that had jurisdiction over marriage.

It is clear, from them, that the marital pair were inseparable. A trace of this quaint notion still remained in the marriage ceremony that was still sometimes used when I was a youth:

"With my body I thee worship. With all my worldly goods I thee endow," the man swore. (He did not swear the same oath to his typewriter).

The woman swore to "love, honor and to obey."

Chattel is hardly the right word, therefore.

Perhaps, however, this is merely to quibble. When I think of Supreme Court commentaries that have left me breathless, the odd use of the word "chattel" is small potatoes indeed.

Besides, like so many other decisions of courts, this one makes no real difference. If a wife wanted to do in her husband, she never found it necessary to go to a court.

"Women, as realists, found readier and less time-consuming means. Knives, poisons, bad cooking, and similar naggery.

Bad rice is a sharper weapon for the wife than the average court judgement, as wives learned early on.

The way it has always worked is the woman shops around and says:

"Well, I guess that guy is as good as any," and, having chosen him, marries him.

When she wearies of him, out he goes, and indisputed cases she almost always gets the dog.

When the bloke dies, worked into an early grave, she commonly trots off to Austria and forms a great friendship with a ski instructor.

Now the courts can mull and mewl atlength, but I believe most men past the age of 25 understand how things work in this world.

If the courts wish to award this new legal right to women, so that now they can get at us in court, well, that is a harmless diversion of the court. Perhaps it kept the court out of serious mischief -- something that would really make a difference.

And if the splendid societies that advance women's rights think that with this decision they have marched another mile towards Zion, so much the better. But the women I know will merely smile. Having artillery, they hardly need spitballs..