Today’s Picky Language Question

In today’s New York Times “Wedding and Celebrations” section, this headline:

The question: In a male same-sex wedding, can either partner actually be said to be “bridegroom”? There’s a technical issue with the word, to wit, a notable lack of a bride.

They could each be a “groomgroom,” but that’s just redundant and/or recursive.

Possibly best to just call them each “groom,” and then not think too hard about it.

89 thoughts on “Today’s Picky Language Question

  1. I think you may be overthinking this. Word usage evolves beyond literal etymology all the time… I don’t see any real reason to confine “bridegroom” to men who are marrying women.

  2. Just don’t call them late to dinner…

    I know, I know, but I’ve never had the opportunity to actually say this terrible joke.

  3. Shmuel:

    “I don’t see any real reason to confine “bridegroom” to men who are marrying women.”

    Well, except that the word “bride” exclusively refers to women.

    Bear in mind I’m not going to try to pass a law about it. It just strikes me as deeply incongruent.

  4. More to the point — and I almost can’t believe that I’m looking this stuff up when I should be leaving to catch a plane (to a wedding, appropriately enough) — etymologically speaking, a bridegroom isn’t a groom who marries a bride; a bridegroom is a man who is a bride. Whom he’s marrying doesn’t enter into the plain meaning of the word.

  5. According to wikipedia, the word comes ” from Old English brȳdguma, from brȳd (“bride”) + guma (“man”), influenced by groom through folk etymology.”

    So it’s really bride + manbride, a turn-up on the usual change of the male form of a word.

  6. A housewife isn’t married to a house. We say “good morning” even when the morning is lousy. A husband doesn’t necessarily manage or care for anything. If men getting married sans brides are called bridegrooms, it seems in keeping with many other words we still use though the meaning is archaic or a convention.

    What I’d like are new words for the various meanings of “partner” so that “business partner,” “sexual partner,” and “partner for life” are distinguished from each other. When someone introduces someone else as their partner, I never know whether they’re in business together or in bed together.

  7. Were I writing the headline — and newspaper headline-writing actually was part of my job for three years — I simply would leave out “bridegroom,” leaving: “One bridegroom is a skating coach, the other practices law.” A cop-out, yes.

    To the larger point: While they both are arguably bridegrooms, they both are definitely grooms, so I’d opt for “grooms” over “bridegrooms,” just to be safe (and shorter).

    I wonder whether they met when the lawyer took skating lessons, or when the skating coach got sued by someone who broke an ankle?

  8. Well, except that the word “bride” exclusively refers to women.

    It didn’t use to. “Bride-” was used as a prefix to refer to all sorts of things wedding-related.

    Quoth the OED, under “bride” in combination:
    Bride- had originally the force of ‘bridal, wedding’ (the primitive marriage being essentially the acquisition of a bride): so in all the OE. compounds of brýd-. Only in modern combinations, as bride-like, brideless, is bride used in sense 1.

    [Sense 1 is the word on its own, which specifically refers to a woman at her marriage since the 16th century; earlier it referred to either partner.]

    (Okay, really am running off now.)

  9. I would just have left the whole word out. “one is …, the other…”. Avoids the problem altogether. This actually is a (potential) problem for me. I don’t necessarily object to two “brides”, but “wife and wife” is uncomfortable for me. So even after the wedding, I guess my parter (sorry, Shauna) and I will remain partners.

    Shauna, I agree but “lover” is too personal for my taste and “girlfriend” sounds stupid after 25. “SO” is a bit stilted and impersonal. I have no answer.

  10. Shauna: A housewife isn’t married to a house.

    And in fact the OE word huswīf (literally “housewife”) gives us the modern word (drumroll please)…’hussy’. Huh? Yep. Hussy. ‘Housewife’ is a modern re-combination of the two.

  11. From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

    “bridegroom
    O.E. brydguma “suitor,” from bryd “bride” (see bride) + guma “man” (cf. O.N. gumi, O.H.G. gomo, cognate with L. homo “man;” see homunculus). Ending altered 16c. by folk etymology after groom “groom, boy, lad” (q.v.). Common Germanic compound (cf. O.S. brudigumo, O.N. bruðgumi, O.H.G. brutigomo, Ger. Bräutigam), except in Gothic, which used bruþsfaþs, lit. “bride’s lord.””

    “bride
    O.E. bryd “bride, betrothed or newly married woman,” from P.Gmc. *bruthiz “woman being married” (cf. O.Fris. breid, Du. bruid, O.H.G. brut, Ger. Braut “bride”). Goth. cognate bruþs, however, meant “daughter-in-law,” and the form of the word borrowed from O.H.G. into M.L. (bruta) and O.Fr. (bruy) only had this sense. In ancient IE custom, the married woman went to live with her husband’s family, so the only “newly wed female” in such a household would be the daughter-in-law. On the same notion, some trace the word itself to the PIE verbal root *bru- “to cook, brew, make broth,” as this was the daughter-in-law’s job.”

    The words “bride” and “bridegroom” refer to specific social roles that are so far removed from the modern western institute of marriage that I’m not sure they’re relevant enough to warrant a debate about which gender they can be applied to.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=bride&searchmode=none

  12. OK, I’ve decided I care more about my posting name than my eye picture, since WordPress is now forcing me to choose. That meant I had to alter my email address (in a way that leaves it obvious what the real address is).

    The word ‘gourmet’ began life as ‘gromet’, a “small groom.” But even at the beginning it didn’t mean a small groom, but a wine merchant’s servant. It was influenced by ‘gourmand’ into its current form.

  13. I hate you, WordPress. First you make me choose between my name and my icon, then (after I write a comment explaining about how ‘gourmet’ doesn’t mean “little groom” anymore) you tell me “Oops, maintenance, don’t hit Back, just hit Refresh” then when I do you say “Duplicate comment detected. It looks like you’ve already said that”—but of course actually you threw away my comment.

    Death to WordPress and their damned forced logins. Death I say.

  14. Oh, marvelous. No matter how many times I refreshed BEFORE my just-previous comment, the one before that didn’t show up. Now that I’ve said so it did. Henceforth when I say DYWP you must read that for Damn You WordPress.

  15. Probably best just to be glad that this is a question that more and more people are going to get to deal with answering as time goes on and progress is made?

  16. (OK, now I seem to have figured out how to get what I want…still have to log in though. I hate surprises.)

    I think it IS a little strange to use the word ‘bridegroom’ for a man who’s marrying another groom rather than a bride. I think it was the New York Times’ screwup (or possibly whoever wrote that was being deliberately sarcastic; hard to be sure without knowing more). I certainly think the usual term for a man in the context of his wedding is ‘groom’ (not ‘bridegroom’), and there’s nothing wrong with ‘one groom is…the other is…’ as a way of phrasing that.

    As for ‘groom and groom’, well, you say “brother and sister” but not “brother and brother” or “sister and sister.” Call them “the grooms,” as in ‘The grooms departed for the honeymoon at 8:30 PM.”

  17. I look forward to seeing how the English language evolves to describe this. Maybe there will be an OED ready term in a decade or two.

  18. Again, Bob, the problem goes away if you think about actual usage. ‘You may kiss the bride’ is an instruction to a groom, because of course only he had agency and she would just stand there waiting to be kissed; no bride would ever initiate a kiss, and she was his new property anyway, right? </sarcasm> In other words, it’s archaic at best.

    If the officiant is even going to do the permission-to-kiss bit in a covalent wedding ceremony, s/he can just say “you may kiss.” Hello, both people are being addressed equally! In fact it would be much better to go to this for ionic weddings as well.

    I’m assuming, btw, that you were really suggesting that, and not just using it as a way to make fun of the idea of two men getting married. Otherwise my response would have contained a higher proportion of Anglo-Saxon epithets.

  19. Only if one of them doesn’t mind being called the “bride”. :)

    Just calling each “groom” seems quite reasonable. Besides, in heterosexual marriages people generally just refer to the people as the “bride” and “groom”, so referring to the two guys as “groom” and “groom” (or “the grooms”) works fine, and similarly for two women, “bride” and “bride” (or “the brides”) works – just don’t let either see the other beforehand.

    As for the kiss, how about “you may kiss the groom.” It sounds more complete than just, “You may kiss.”

  20. John, I don’t think the appropriate terms for this situation have developed yet, or evolved from older forms. I think in the next few years we are going to see new terms for the participants crop up, whether they be old words adapted to new use, or new terms some smart cookie (John Scalzi, et al.) cooks up.

  21. Xopher Halftongue: I’m assuming, btw, that you were really suggesting that, and not just using it as a way to make fun of the idea of two men getting married. Otherwise my response would have contained a higher proportion of Anglo-Saxon epithets.

    It was a joke, and gay couples getting married are not the object of the joke.

    It’s one thing if you didn’t think it was funny; I’m fine with that. But if you were seriously contemplating getting upset at what you read as a slight, then all I can do is shake my head.

  22. Eric, how about ‘you may now kiss each other’? I really don’t like ‘you may now kiss the groom’, because who the hell is she talking to? Someone who’s not “the groom,” that’s for sure…and no one who isn’t has permission to kiss either groom at that point! (Later maybe. I’ve kissed the groom (on the cheek!) at more than one wedding, and all of them were ionic.)

  23. Bob, I am delighted and unsurprised that my assumption was correct. It seemed unlikely that you meant it as a slight. I covered the possibility with ironically-intended formal language to indicate that I wasn’t quite serious.

  24. This reminds me of the hilarious episode of Modern Family where one of the partners in the gay marriage was furious that everyone assumed he was the “wife” and “mother.”

    The world gets stranger every day, so what can we do but do the same?

  25. Xopher, one would hope that they’re both involved in the act of kissing (just like “bride” and “groom” are in a conventional marriage, regardless of the phrasing used), and therefore being told that they can “now kiss the groom” makes perfect grammatical sense. Each is kissing the other in a reciprocal fashion.

    It’s actually the heterosexual phrasing that is outdated and incorrect. For most, the bride is just as involved in the act of kissing as the groom.

  26. Why is that, Mike? Don’t mistake the etymology for the meaning; these days ‘groom’ only means “man in the context of his wedding” (well, or a guy who takes care of horses, but I think it’s clear we’re not discussing that). If your friend got a phone call, listened, and said “That’s great! Who’s the groom?” you’d know that marriage was being discussed.

  27. I agree with Improbable Joe, excellent to be having a conversation limited to semantics and not whether they can or not. Yay for some slight progress!

  28. Speaking as a homo-resident of the District of Columbia (where same-sex marriage is legal as well as where I am married to my partner aka husband) I say don’t over-think it. I started reading all the above and even that seems like over-thinking it.

    My husband’s name is David. My name is Bill. We are each others husband. We were each the groom when we got married. I’m sure there’s going to be some complication in that but that’s okay. I really never thought I’d see the day when I’d be married. Things are just fabulous as far as I’m concerned. There will always be details and “buts.” All I really care about is I’m with someone I love and who loves me.

  29. Since marriage used to mean a union of a man and a woman, and now no longer does, I guess we can refer to the participants as “bridegrooms” or “grooms”. Cuz you know, sometimes words have two meanings.

    Good luck to them in any case, how many relationships stay together for the long haul in these modern times no matter what kind of genders and orientations are involved?

  30. My deep thoughts: “groomgroom” is, indeed, silly. I personally like “groom” for a man getting married, and “bride” for a woman getting married, regardless of the gender of the other party. (So, “One groom is a masked crimefighter and the other is a botanist.”) And “husbands” and “wives” for married same-gender couples, or the perfectly good and always-appropriate word “spouse”.

  31. What a word meant centuries ago hardly matters now. In most hetero weddings, I hear the man called the “groom.” “Bridegroom” mostly turns up in Victorian novels and stuffy newspaper articles. So, if a man marrying a woman can just be a groom, it seems appropriate also for a man marrying a man.

  32. When I got married, we were ‘groom’ and ‘groom’ on the state paperwork (New Hampshire); we don’t really seem to use the word ‘bridegroom’ where I come from; admittedly, I come from an dialect area where we say ‘tonic’ instead of ‘soda’ or ‘pop’, so my language opinions may not count.

    Our difficulty came in figuring out which of two otherwise identical forms to use; one was for ‘religious marriage’, where the ceremony is performed by a ‘minister of the gospel’, unless we were Jews or Quakers; the other for ‘civil marriage’, where the ceremony is performed by a Justice of the Peace or a judge, or a minister from out of state. Our minister was a friend from Massachusetts, so we never had to figure out whether a UU was a ‘minister of the gospel’ or no.

    We refer to each other in conversation as ‘my husband’. I never really liked ‘partner’, which always sounds like you’re trying to avoid saying something directly. Before we were married, I would refer to him as ‘my boyfriend’, or if I wanted to stay straight-looking, ‘my sweetheart’.

  33. I believe “bride” modifies groom to indicate what sort of groom–a groom associated with a bridal (that is to say, wedding–it’s an old word for wedding) as opposed to a barn groom or house groom or whatever.

    I’m also pretty sure the NYT ran this by their word mavens before they published it.

  34. I’ve certainly been cofused by ‘partner’ when friends were referring to another friend who hadn’t come out the last time I saw him. I thought at first they meant business partner. That was in the early ’90s. Now it would at least occur to me to ask.

  35. I used to call my Sweet Baboo my “boyfriend,” and scoffed at those who thought it was silly. We’re in our early 40s now, though, and after 15 years, it’s started to seem a little inappropriate. I generally go with “partner” these days. When California finally finishes extricating itself from the mess that is Prop. 8, we’ll hie ourselves to the chapel and make it legal, but I’m still not sure what word I’ll go with then. “Husband” just sounds weird to me, though I’ve got friends who use it with no hesitation. I suspect I’ll acclimate myself to it a little at a time, starting with “hubby.” Or maybe “hubby-wubby” so I can pretend I’m being ironic.
    Also, as has been pointed out, it’s no longer defensible to tell one person that they may now kiss the other, so we’re going to have to find a new Official Phrase. I submit, “Smooch away, lovebirds!” Either that, or “Make with the lip action, hepcats!”

  36. I think groom and groom works fine (or bride and bride), for now. The traditions of marriage will change, and have been changing for decades and centuries, though enough carries forward from generation to generation to make it still feel like tradition.

    Gay couples are the hopefully thankful beneficiaries of some of these changes. Same-sex marriage has gone from unthinkable to inevitable in a relatively short time. It was unthinkable fifty years ago because most people got hung up on their idea of traditional marriage. The problems with acceptance of gay marriage or even gay partnerships could usually be summed up with an incredulous question like “Who’s going to wear the dress?” or “Who’s going to be the wife?”. It wash’t a wedding and it wasn’t marriage unless someone played the traditional woman’s role.

    The evolution of marriage into a partnership of equals (legally and socially) seems to me what makes same-sex marriage inevitable. If two equal partners wish to join in civil (or holy) matrimony, why have the arbitrary restriction that one of the equal partners be a man and the other equal partner be a woman?

    These changes in marriage did not occur because heterosexual couples wanted to move toward making same-sex marriage legal. They were changing it to benefit themselves. But gay couples will also reap the benefit.

    Gay marriages will probably feed some changes in tradition back to their heterosexual counterparts. If you go to a straight wedding and the usher asks “would you like to sit on the Anderson side or the Miller side?”, it may be a reflection of how awkward “groom’s side or groom’s side” sounds.

  37. Is this one of those “woman is wrong because it contains ‘man’ so I’m a wimyn” type problems? Bride = female person getting married, bridegroom = male ditto. My sister was a bride, as was her wife. They were brides. Amazingly we already have a plural form! And look, another for bridegrooms. {/sarcasm} If you want to be specific, gaygroom and dykebride? Gaym and bryde? Actually, bryde I could get to like.

    I’m more interesting in neologisms for things we don’t have words for yet. Like the stronger form of brotherhood within a marriage, which could be groomhood. Or bridehood. Even spousehood. Or spouseship. Except it’s not really brotherhood in the sense the term is usually used today (historically, maybe). Or the donor-parent-and-father-figure that’s (IMO) becoming more common or at least more overt, where traditionally sperm donors were kept more at a distance (to avoid legal complications?) Donordad really doesn’t fit (and infants struggle with long words). We probably need a new widely-used word for “other parent” IMO since it does actually get confusing when a little one goes “muuuuuuummmm!” and everyone assumes someone else will respond :) Or in our case grandmother tries to beat both “mum”s to the child because Grandchild!!!

    I suspect kids will churn these out for us. One friend is “umdad” not donordad because that’s what he got called once and it stuck. The parents are suitably embarrassed. He’s trying to make it “undad” but no luck so far. Perhaps that would work as a generic, coz even little kids can cope with um. And umum sounds cool.

  38. I’m also pretty sure the NYT ran this by their word mavens before they published it.

    You have more confidence in them than I do, then. They’ve screwed up some pretty basic stuff in the past.

  39. I would say it doesn’t matter a whole helluva lot what *I* would call them. It’s how they refer to *each other* that counts, and I am thrilled beyond words that society is inching ever closer to the day where it will be perfectly legal, in all fifty states, for same-sex partners to marry. If they want to refer to themselves, and their life partner, as “groom/husband” or “bride/wife”, who am I to say no? I’m disgusted that “full faith and credit” only applies in all fifty states if you’re a hetero couple, and only a half-dozen or so if you’re gay/lesbian. That’s the bigger picture we need to be concerned with, not the names society at large should ascribe to the parties in question.

  40. Apparently “bride” was used to indicate a spouse of either sex in the 15th and 16th century (so says the tyrant OED), so “bridegroom” to indicate either partner in a male same-sex pairing seems like a minor and necessary innovation in comparison.

  41. This seems like a pretty fundamental problem with gender-linked words as they relate to same-sex marriage. I think instead of ‘bride’ and ‘groom’, it’s probably better to refer to the happy couple as ‘person’ and ‘other person’. Maybe, if you’re a Marx Brothers fan, ‘the party of the first part’ and ‘the party of the second part’, but I really like ‘person’ and ‘other person’. That’s really what they are: people, whose sex and/or gender roles aren’t terribly material, or really anybody’s business but their own.

    Also, it has the added bonus of making clear to any members of the political far right that neither one of them is, as I have seen suggested as a logical extension to allowing gay marriage, say, a turtle, or a Buick. I’m not entirely clear on exactly how gay marriage ultimately leads to a turtle marrying a Buick, but I am reliably informed by certain politicians and media outlets that this is something about which I should be concerned.

  42. Well, if nothing else, you have to love the level of acceptance here at the Scalzi compound. I know what a lot of people in my neck of the woods would call them, and you don’t want to hear it.
    Fifty comments in, and not a single shitty one that I saw. It’s awesome.

    Personally, I think Groom and Groom is the way to go.

  43. Uh…

    The Times’ wedding announcement doesn’t currently include this language. Evidently it was corrected.

    Unfortunately, the “bridegroom” language DOES show up in a nasty, mean-spirited “TEH GAYZ ARE EVIL AND MAKE ME PUKE” thread on the Free Republic. :(

  44. “Well, except that the word “bride” exclusively refers to women.”

    Perhaps from the perspective of a quaint and antiquated worldview.

  45. Here’s my solution: They come from a vague state of mutual groomatude and proceed to being husbanded.

    ;)

  46. Considering it took the time decades to use the word “gay” this isn’t surprising. I’ve decided it was put out by someone at the Times who is straight and wasn’t sure of what to do so they went with tradition, as it was.
    Gay people I know would have just said “groom”.

  47. I’d have called ‘em both “groom” myself. Congrats to them anyway, yay for weddings!

    Also, if you read the word “groom” enough it loses all meaning and just becomes a collection of letters.

  48. Rats

    That should read “Considering it took the ” Times” decades to use the word “gay”.

  49. Bridegroom? This is what you are worried about?
    When I saw that blurb I actually thought this would be the stupid plot to a new crime-drama-series.
    “One is a skating coach, the other practices law – together they fight crime!”

  50. Don’t overthink it. Unless you’re doing a wedding soon and have to know what to say in lieu of “You may now kiss the bride.”

    Strangely, my marriage STILL does not seem threatened by this.

    Hmm…

  51. When I officiate weddings, instead of saying “you may kiss the bride,” I often say (depending on the couple), “Now KISS, you crazy kids!”

  52. @ saruby

    Shauna, I agree but “lover” is too personal for my taste and “girlfriend” sounds stupid after 25. “SO” is a bit stilted and impersonal. I have no answer.

    There always, I’d like you to meet X, my main squeeze.

    I’m sticking with partner, though. I had two business partners (at the same time, oh my) for over seven years before I asked them to buy me out so I could continue with school. In all that time no one has seemed confused by whether I was talking about my business partners or my main squeeze. Though I could imagine that for some people, particularly those who work with their monogamous partner*, context might be less illuminating.

    Even in college I said significant other. I stopped saying girlfriend after high school, when I started dating women, not girls. Whenever I got far enough into a relationship that it wasn’t an off-colour request, I would request that my SO choose a term other than boyfriend by which to refer to me, except in instances where her intent was to insult my maturity, in which cases boyfriend would be spot-on.

    *Hey! I just thought of a great word: monoganaut…this is why I should not be allowed near a keyboard :-)

    What do you all suppose married AIs would call each other? What would an AI and human couple call each other? [Note: To any mixed-sentience archeologist who finds this in the future, yes, I was that ahead of my time :-]

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    OK, I’ve decided I care more about my posting name than my eye picture, since WordPress is now forcing me to choose. That meant I had to alter my email address (in a way that leaves it obvious what the real address is).

    You can change your display name to be other than your WP username. I notice you fixed it. I’m leaving this here for the benefit of others tripping over the new policy.

    I hate you, WordPress. First you make me choose between my name and my icon, then (after I write a comment explaining about how ‘gourmet’ doesn’t mean “little groom” anymore) you tell me “Oops, maintenance, don’t hit Back, just hit Refresh” then when I do you say “Duplicate comment detected. It looks like you’ve already said that”—but of course actually you threw away my comment.

    I recommend using an app other than your browser to compose comments, then cut and paste them in.

    Henceforth when I say DYWP you must read that for Damn You WordPress.

    I’m adding it to the list.

    I really don’t like ‘you may now kiss the groom’, because who the hell is she talking to?

    Both, logically.

    @ Bob

    I suggest we use the term “other guy,” as in “You may now kiss the other guy.”

    How about Kiss the man for gay weddings and Kiss the woman for lesbian weddings?

    @EWR KSC

    I never really liked ‘partner’, which always sounds like you’re trying to avoid saying something directly.

    To each their own, always, but to me and my partner the term is an apt description of our commitment sans all the cultural baggage with which neither of us identify. We’ve been discussing a civil marriage recently. We’d want a humanist ceremony, but we’ll have to decide what terms we want for the ceremony. Husband & Wife, or bride and groom may have memetic roots inapplicable to our secular beliefs. This bears further investigation. Hmm…instead of, You may now kiss the bride, I know a friend with a gong…

    Thanks to John for raising the topic to my attention.

    @ Kevin B

    It was unthinkable fifty years ago because most people got hung up on their idea of traditional marriage.

    That, and openly homosexual citizens were committed to asylums, or made to choose between being shot full of hormones and prison.

    @ Jennifer Davis Ewing

    I’m disgusted that “full faith and credit” only applies in all fifty states if you’re a hetero couple, and only a half-dozen or so if you’re gay/lesbian. That’s the bigger picture we need to be concerned with, not the names society at large should ascribe to the parties in question.

    Well, yes, marriage equality is a more serious matter. But it’s not an either/or situation. We can discuss terminology and advocate marriage equality at the same time. In fact, one could argue that being able to discuss it and have it mean something (even if not yet in every state) is an exercise of the very liberty we’re fighting to extend to all American citizens. Just my 2¢.

    @ James Enge

    Apparently “bride” was used to indicate a spouse of either sex in the 15th and 16th century (so says the tyrant OED)

    Off with its ED!

    Not to mention bloody extortionate. You know how much the Only Educated Dictionary charges for full access to their online database? King’s English, my arse!

    @ alsohuey

    I’m not entirely clear on exactly how gay marriage ultimately leads to a turtle marrying a Buick, but I am reliably informed by certain politicians and media outlets that this is something about which I should be concerned.

    Obviously it’s an inevitable result of anti-liberty authoritarians lacking the basic reasoning skillz needed to understand that neither a turtle or Buick can consent to marriage. No one is that stupid, you say? Ah, let me introduce you to some real winners…

    @ ellid

    Unfortunately, the “bridegroom” language DOES show up in a nasty, mean-spirited “TEH GAYZ ARE EVIL AND MAKE ME PUKE” thread on the Free Republic.

    One can’t expect not to find fecal matter in a pile of shit.

    @ John Scalzi

    When I officiate weddings, instead of saying “you may kiss the bride,” I often say (depending on the couple), “Now KISS, you crazy kids!”

    I had no idea the SFWA presidente had that kind of clout. Your services may be required in the not too distant future. (I’m joking…unless you plan on visiting Texas in the autumn?)

  53. I just checked the dictionary on my desk — Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, 11th ed. — and the person-who-cares-for-horses definition of groom comes before the person-getting-married definition. And the marriage-related definition is “BRIDEGROOM,” in all caps, which signifies that bridegroom is actually a preferred synonym for groom.

    I haven’t read a ton of NYT wedding announcements, nor have I looked at their internal style guide, but I’m guessing they use bridegroom instead of groom deliberately, to distinguish men getting married from those who care for horses, as a matter of longstanding policy — possibly dating back to the days when grooms caring for horses were more of an everyday occurrence than bridegrooms getting married.

    With grooms marrying one another quickly becoming more common than grooms caring for horses, I think it’s time to update the style manual.

  54. “would you like to sit on the Anderson side or the Miller side?”

    Which raises another point. Tradition dictates that in a heterosexual marriage ceremony, the man stands on the right (dexter, skilled, ruling) side, while the woman stands on the left (sinister, gauche, weak) side. In a homosexual marriage ceremony, how is it decided who stands where? Alphabetical? Height? Masked crime-fighting prowess? Muffin bake off?

  55. Why didn’t the paper just use their names, e.g. “Mr. Miller is a skating coach; Mr. Reisman practices law.”
    Baffling.

  56. @constance
    I think your ‘Mr. Miller’ idea is a good one.

    I suspect there wasn’t a great deal of time spent in considering the alternatives. There was plenty of other work to be done. If it wasn’t already in the Time’s style guide, I suspect that whoever wrote it reasoned that if other marriage announcements featured a bridegroom, then this one must feature two. It sounds a bit silly in retrospect, but it’s logical enough.

    I expect the Times will settle on something and use the same language for all same-sex announcements in the future.

    As far as words to use instead of partner how about:
    spouse — for those who are able to be legally married
    mate — though some may find it a bit too much like a ‘nature documentary’, lifemate? Isn’t there some SF somewhere that uses lifemate? I’m not thinking of the Star Wars Holiday Special am I?

    Both of these words can be used without knowledge of whether the couple in question is same-sex or not. Actually, ‘partner’ doesn’t either, but I think at this point most people generally would interpret to mean partner of the same sex.

  57. Gulliver asks, “You know how much the Only Educated Dictionary charges for full access to their online database?” Check out your local public library; they may have a subscription. Anyone who has a library card for the Los Angeles Public Library, for example, can get remote access to the OED.

  58. The best introduction I’ve personally witnessed, the officiant introduced the couple, “S. and B… married men.” I thought that was a nice touch because it fits into regular usage without tipping one’s hat. “Want to go chase skirts at the dance club?” “No thanks, I’m a married man.”

  59. I once pronounced an ionic couple “Woman and Husband.” I admit I stole this from Enchanté magazine’s All My Avatars: The Pagan Soap Opera.

  60. Does the ionic/covalent couple metaphor exist anywhere else besides this Whatever comments section? It’s kinda neat, but I think it would require a fair amount of explanation if released into the wild.

    I tried search ionic wedding and got hits for honeymoon destinations in Greece.

  61. In answer to Mike’s question about the ionic/covalent metaphor, mistakenly posted in another thread: as far as I know, I made it up. I Tweeted it, and to my amazement and delight it was reTweeted a fair bit, but it’s new. Please feel free to spread it.

  62. And of course he reposts here, like a smart person. That’s the one I meant, right above my last one.

  63. I can’t believe I’m defending the New York Times here, but stranger things have happened. I’m not exactly a devoted reader of the NYT’s ‘Weddings and Celebrations’ section but it looks like the writer – and however many layers of editing the copy went through — just decided to apply house style regardless of whether the couple involved are same- or opposite-sex.

    On balance, I think that’s a very good thing even if the results are awkward or downright weird to my eye.

  64. Seems like they are trying to mint a neologism there. And not a bad one at that. Instead of the traditional meaning of the groom to the bride (so to speak), it evolves to mean “the groom or the bride, take your pick”.

  65. On a totally tangential note, has anybody noticed that there seems to be a relatively recent explosion of same-sex couples on shows like “Property Virgins” and “House Hunters?”

    I’ll grant you there’s probably not a lot of demographic overlap between “homophobes*” and HGTV, which tends to be kinda high end. At least until you get into “Your Money, My House,” which I find hysterical, but I digress. Anyway, almost everybody likes a nice house, so it still seems like a lot of people could be turning on the House Hunters marathon and bopping happily along until…

    *dun dun dun*

    “Two men… shopping for a house together? This isn’t one of those house flipper shows, is it? What are they, brothers? Wait… they’re holding hands… ARE THOSE TEH GAYZ? SHOPPING FOR HOUSES IN FRONT OF GOD AND EVERYBODY? ON MY TELEVISION?!?

    To bring it back a little, there does seem to be a huge amount of variation between how the members of said couples refer to each other, and occasionally the narrator seems to be straining a bit to keep it politically correct without offending anyone, but it’s all in good fun. I’ve seen a few such couples refer to being “engaged,” even in states where AFAIK they couldn’t be legally married, which was brave if a little sad.

    My favorite thing so far has been a comment from one member of such a couple who kept commenting that none of the houses they were shopping for had closets that were big enough, and when the other member finally said, enough about the closets already, they snapped right back, “I spent most of my life in the closet and if I have to go back in there I want some room!”

    *I fully support the right of homosexuals to do dumb things like get married and have children but I will never, ever like that word, it’s just nonsensical. We need a better word for the concept, which I don’t dispute is both a real thing and something to be deplored.

  66. I see someone has already gone full on Anglo-Saxon and etymological in the comments, but I just wanted to say that my Old English professor back in the day loosely translated “bridegroom” as “bride-guy” and I rather love that. While yes, “bridegroom” as a word literally points to “bride” as the root–pointing at the girl thing, in particular, which is an unusual situation in a word referring to a man (usually the male gender gets to be the root word, and you add crap (er, suffixes) to make the word about a woman–see “woman”!)–it really just means “guy getting married.” And there’s something lovely about using a word that really just means “guy getting married.” It’s not a euphemism, it’s not an adaptation, it’s not a compromise.

  67. Marc Whipple, I call them “anti-gay bigots,” or “gay-hating bigots,” or “gay-hating shitheads,” depending on my level of anger in the original case.

    And no, one cannot oppose marriage equality without being a gay-hating bigot.

  68. I often find ‘bride-elect’ rather than ‘bride’ in actual Victorian novels. Perhaps it could be recycled in one of the reality TV shows?

    (It seemed to mean before the wedding, instead of for approximately a month after, but now it could be audience approval.)

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