In Sunday's New York Times there's an article that combines things relationship with things semantic: What in the world are you supposed to call the man or woman with whom you've been living with for the past 20 years — your de facto spouse — when you're not actually, officially married, and never want to be? What are you supposed to call the man or woman you love who isn't a "boy" or a "girl" or a "friend"? As I recall, there's a long-running Saturday Night Live sketch about this very social conundrum. Lovah isn't exactly the answer, for any number of reasons; most of them fall under the veil of "too much information." On the other side of that, even if you are married, or your relationship is one barely distinguishable from that of a married couple, maybe you think husband and wife sound too stodgy, too part of the old-guard, too medieval. You're more progressive! So what do you call yourself, and your lovah?
In her Times piece, Elizabeth Weil canvasses a few such people who've struggled to come up with names for what they are to each other and brings the conversation into the new year: "Now that we’ve come to some consensus on same-sex marriage, let’s move on to the next puzzle: what to call two people who act as if they are married but are not," she writes. Marriage equality and what to call your long-time live-in boyfriend or girlfriend are hardly the same thing, but it's true that the semantics for the latter seem oddly lacking. Partner is confusing; is it business or otherwise? Lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, and special friend have also been tossed off as silly, young, dated, ridiculous. Baby daddy may not be the right note, exactly, either. And no one in a relationship, new or old, wants to be described by their partner as "my friend." In the face of a semantic dilemma, people have selected their own words — one woman calls her "mate of 23 years" (mate: also bad) mi hombre. Another woman calls the man to whom she is engaged her fusband, "a catchall for 'fake husband, future husband.'” (She scoffs off fiancé, though in fairness, fusband sounds equally bizarre. To each her own!)