Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The other day I got an email from a friend and he asked me; what do you call the person you're with?  I could call him husband, but then there's legal issues.  We never got married anywhere because why should we have had to leave the state I was born, raised and educated in moreover the state where we met, fell in love, and lived for 5 years together for a piece of paper that the government won't recognize anyway.  Though that's a court case for a few years down the road, non?

I figured it was pretty obvious that he's know as Partner.  Partially because I think it's kind of a cute nickname for the site, and if we had a civil union, it would be the correct term. Technically, I don't really call him my partner when I speak with other people.  Of course I call him by name or by one of the countless nicknames I have for him.  Personally, I do find partner completely impersonal.  It sounds like we work in a law firm together.

I got into the habit of calling him boyfriend for so long when we were first dating.  It was just the safest term.  Life partner makes me think of Susan and Carol from Friends and life mate just seems ridiculous.  Also, it makes me think of that story arc on X-Men with the Phalanx, so no thanks on that one.  In college, it's acceptable, but I just can't see calling him a boyfriend after 2 years.  Hell, some straight people get married five times over in that period.  I hate to use boyfriend now, considering that it will be 8 years this August.  So, boyfriend seems inadequate.

The final option is something that even every time I say it i feel like a dork.  I remember reading this article on Kenneth in the 212 about how he really liked it when people would call who they were with their lover.  I don't know why but that just can't bring myself to say it.  It just bothers me.  I know it shouldn't.  We are in love, but it just seems so weird and like I should have a mustache when I say it.

Now, here is where French comes in handy.  Since France is surprisingly liberal with how relationships work, the best term I can use is "conjoint."  Looking around a bit on a few of the dictionary sites I use, they translate it as spouse, but that doesn't work quite right.  When you call someone a conjoint, you are basically calling them a spouse, but there is not anything legal behind it.  You may have kids, which in fact a lot of French conjoints do but never married; however there is not legal contract behind you.  You basically live together, and that's really it.  Even for the purpose of taxes, you really don't even have to announce yourself as a couple.

What complicates the French situation is that straight couples can get civil unions, which should tell you right there that it's different and not equal at all to a marriage.  A PACS (Pacte Civile de Solidarit√©) the French civil union is open to any two people who want some of the responsibilities of marriage, but without the full intertwining that happens.  Unfortunately, that also means that you have no right to immigration if you're not a legal citizen.  They are really easy to knock down and it's something that you have to explain.

I don't think there's any great term for what Partner and I are for each other.  Even in French, conjoint is a legal term used to describe the situation.  I could use amoureux, but it's really a term used by little kids so once again we run into that level of seriousness problem just in another language.  Can anyone think of a better term?  I know I could really just use whatever I want, and really there shouldn't be a difference, but for now, there is.

Ok, this is getting complicated and I have a glass of Breizh Cola that's almost flat.  Conversely, that is a problem I can solve.


  1. When we first moved to Oregon I was so confused when people would refer to 'their partner' and I would think their partner was of the same gender. Lots to learn I guess. Significant other is what I call mine.

  2. It's really hard to get used to something when we're accustomed to a meaning. I just wish there was an understood term that was less clinical than partner.

  3. "Conjoint" is the most common term to designate any kind of partnership here whether it's traditional marriage or a civil union, gay or straight, whatever!

    When people are just dating then the man is called "le chum" and the woman "la blonde"! "C'est ma blonde!" or "C'est mon chum!"

    Have you ever thought about the word "concubin"??!!

    just kidding! :D

  4. Blue, it's like you're a mindreader! I actually talked with Partner about the use of "concubin" because I had heard it before, and he's like, yeah, don't use that, ever! :-)

    I have actually never heard blonde used in that way. I don't really know how one would translate chum or blonde. I mean, we have them in English, but in that sense? Eh, dunno.

    Hope you're doing well! I miss talking to you!

  5. We are married now (legal here in Canada), so husband is an easy one.

    Before that we used partner or spouse, as I found 'boyfriend" sounds like we met 2 weeks ago at recess. Then again 'partner' sounds like we oopened a factory together.... this isnt easy... thats why marriage equality is so important!

    1. Exactly Brahm! I just really don't think there's a good term in English. We need full equality in all senses, linguistic or otherwise.