On changing names - about as OT as you can get

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu Mar 13 00:01:32 EST 2003

On Wed, 12 Mar 2003 20:55:33 -0500 (EST), johanna wrote:

>> I was going to continue, but I realized that this discussion really is
>> off topic and is leading in a not-so-happy direction.  One of the things
>> I am grateful for is that the people on this list have always been
>> comfortable referring to the varied kinds of relationships they are part
>> of, without feeling that they will be looked down on for, I don't know,
>> shacking up or living in sin or being mindless drones of the
>> establishment.  I like the atmosphere of generosity this creates.
>I thought this discussion was about people not making assumptions. If
>people want to refer to their SOs as x, y, or z, that's fine--but I v.
>much dislike when language is used about others without asking them that
>assumes how they construct their relationships.

That's exactly why I responded the way I did; I don't want someone referring
to Jacob as my partner, rather than my husband, because it *does* assume
something about how my relationship is constructed.  My response was in
reference to the idea of universally using the word "partner," not to imply
that it's okay to simply assume that people are married or unmarried or gay
or lesbian without asking.  If I don't know, I don't make ANY assumptions in
either direction.

>Hm... so would you be offended if I referred to Jacob as your partner?

I wouldn't get offended over that, but I'd probably correct you.  :)

>Individually or if I said something like "Every DWJ list member's
>partners"? I'm not being snide, I really am curious, because after I typed
>that last paragraph the question occurred to me.

I think this would be an appropriate term to use in this situation, because
it's referring to relationships in the aggregate.  It's a broad enough term
to encompass everyone, as you say below:

>I tend to use "partner"
>partly out of a sense of social justice but also for convenience--it
>encompasses everyone (because I think of it as a bigger, umbrella term for
>spouse/SO/life partner etc.). Quicker than saying "Everyone's
>spouse/partner/SO/boyfriend/girlfriend," y'know? :)

Absolutely.  I suppose that in individual situations, I would prefer
specificity--find out how the person likes to be referred to and use it,
more of that politeness thing.  But in general, it's just too messy to have
to think of all the possible relationship terms that might apply.  (Same
thing goes for parental consent forms from school...or rather,
parent/grandparent/caretaker/foster parent/day care provider consent forms,
these days.)

Melissa Proffitt

English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head and goes through their pockets for loose vocabulary.

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