“Let me start by saying that I absolutely adore the man I married,” writes a blogger on the Web site A Practical Wedding. “I just don’t want to call him husband … It feels archaic.” Fair enough: The original meaning of husband is “master of a house”; the word and its counterpart, wife, respectively date back to the 11th and ninth centuries. Surely, in a time of cohabitation, same-sex marriage, and women who ably bring home the bacon, these terms must be on their way out?
Well, no. When, last year, the Associated Press advised reporters to “generally” limit the use of husband and wife when referring to people in same-sex relationships—couple and partner were to be used as default terms—a semantic firestorm ensued. Among those protesting the move was gladd. Wrote one of the group’s leaders: “If you are a man, and you are married, you are ‘generally’ a husband—regardless of the gender of your spouse. If you are a woman, and you are married, you are ‘generally’ a wife—regardless of the gender of your spouse. Period.” Husband and wife were worth fighting for. The AP eventually backed down: its reporters now typically refer to married men as husbands and married women as wives, regardless of sexual orientation.