Partner. In what is apparently now a blog-archive habit, I found this early post from Flavia: It reminded me of a wedding I attended, with Sir John, a year or two after Flavia’s post.

We were finding our seats at a table full of people we did not know; some guests were already sitting down, and others had yet to find their place cards. One man introduced his wife to us, and then said, “I’ll save this seat for my partner.”

I blinked, and smiled brightly, thinking, “How very . . . enlightened. I would not have expected that in this company.” Sir John later told me that he had the same reaction.

And then the penny dropped. The bride and groom were lawyers, as were many of the guests. The man meant law firm partner, not that he was in a poly relationship, or had a legal wife and a homosexual partner (gay marriage was not yet legal at this time, how strange that is to remember now) who knew about each other and all attended social events together.

I suppose a lot depends on your social circles. What else, after all, would lawyers working together call one another? I did have the impression that “partner” was getting much wider traction as a relationship term for awhile, but perhaps legalizing gay marriage has shifted us back to “husband,” “wife,” or for a gender-neutral term, “spouse.”

One thought on “Nomenclature anecdote

  1. In my academic circles, Partner is still very much the term of choice for a life-mate of whatever type. Possibly because relatively few academics are religious therefore marriage itself is less important, but definitely because so many people keep their own names and forge their own careers… and also out of a desire to be inclusive, I think, to recognise the many ways people’s lives work. Of course there’s also the firm desire of many younger women to indicate that they are domestic and career equals with their spouses, and I think naming that through the word partner is partly about reminding themselves, their partners and everyone else that they are not defined by parenthood!

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