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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Is it offensive to be called a partner?

I know it is neither ethical nor legal to biff an old lady round the chops and, fortunately, few even contemplate it. But yesterday I came close to having my face re-arranged – all on the altar of accurate vocabulary.

I bumped into an acquaintance in the supermarket; in the toiletry aisle actually. She said she was looking for something for her partner. Perhaps I could help her find it?

‘Of course,’ I said, gazing around. ‘Is he or she your business partner or your sex partner?’

She looked puzzled and I repeated my question. Then the penny, as they say, dropped. Her eyes narrowed and took on a menacing glitter and her lips thinned in an aggressive line. I thought I saw her hands ball into fists before she stalked away.

Now, I ask you? What did I do? I was only trying to clarify the situation. She called this unknown person her partner. I didn’t know what sort of relationship she had. Now, in my day (yes, I know things change but they shouldn’t, not when language loses its edge and meaning) in my day a partner was someone you did business with. Today it means someone you do the business with. We used to call that ‘living-in-sin’.

If my acquaintance had been clear that this person was engaged in the morally dubious activity of ‘living-in-sin’ with her then we both would have known where we stood.

Today a husband or a wife is a partner. Murder is homicide. Rape is sexual assault. I find all this modern PC faffing about with words tiring and confusing. It’s just a way of fudging whatever activity you’re describing so that it doesn’t sound unethical or immoral or just plain bad.

Anyway, good on my acquaintance for walking away but not so good on her for allowing herself to be hoodwinked into being a ‘partner’ and not a wife.
Jenny Harrison

New book: Out of Poland: when the best revenge is to have survived
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  1. I prefer the word 'partner' over boyfriend or girlfriend. To me, it means life partner. Marriage is essentially a religious construct, right, so if we're not religious... I think this is more a matter of each to their own, not PC gone too far :-)

  2. Ha! Finally, a response! So there is at least one person alive out there! Thanks, ZR. I would prefer partner over the two alternatives you've given as neither means the commitment we both intend. Marriage always meant a permanent arrangement whereas a partnership means, to me at least, no boundaries of commitment. It seems you can swan in or out of a partnership as you please. How in a partnership do you commit to a life together? There is no legal binding, is there? In a marriage there is. And marriage doesn't have to mean a religious ceremony, merely the solemn vows are taken in public.