Proof Americans and Brits speak a different language

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  • Btw, what is the term in your respective countries for the mother or father of your child who you get along well with but with whom you were never in a formal enough relationship to call your ex? Babymomma and baby daddy are racially and class coded words here in the US and would probably be offensive in many settings. I honestly don’t know what the right term is here other than “the father/mother of my child” but it is such a common situation and one people often are very public and unashamed of (not that they should be ashamed) nowadays so there probably should be a standard easy to pronounce term for it if there isn’t already.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited August 4
    I don't think there is a word for "person I had unprotected casual sex with". There isn't a word for it, because you don't have a relationship with that person. They aren't your anything.

    They're Jessica's father, or John's mother.

    "This is my son John, and this is his mother Katie" seems to be perfectly adequate.

    ETA: And in most cases, that's what's important. The details of your quondam relationship with Katie aren't really anyone's business. She's the mother of your child.
  • The first time I remember hearing 'partner' used in that way must have been the late '70s as I seem to remember my English teacher at school making something of it as an unusual - and in his view - unwelcome coinage.

    It was pretty unusual back then and used rather self-consciously by Guardianista types who did indeed, have a philosophical objection to marriage. It was a while before I heard same-sex couples use the term but that was certainly common by the 1990s.

    Gradually, the terms 'girlfriend' or 'boyfriend' began to sound a bit teenage or juvenile in comparison.

    It gets a laugh in Mel Brooks's 'Young Frankenstein' when the female villain shouts, with reference to Dr Frankenstein, 'Yes, he was my boyfriend!'

    When live-in lovers were less common, I'm not sure what term was used. It happened but it wasn't talked about perhaps.

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I know plenty of American adults who use “partner” to refer to someone they’re living (or someone else is with but not legally married to, especially if they have kids.

    Just because some Americans use it doesn’t mean it has entered common use though, which I don’t observe in American media or in the conversations I overhear. Maybe I’m the one living around atypical speakers of “general” American English, but the norm I have heard most of my life has been to call someone a boyfriend or girlfriend unless you are engaged, married, or have a legal domestic partnership, regardless of children or living arrangement. Partner has a connotation of self-conscious modernity which is why I think most Americans don’t use it. Even younger people I know who are very diligent about stating their preferred pronouns do not use the term partner in that way and I don’t think they have ever thought about using it. Everyone I know who issues it is British or Australian and is older than me. But maybe I’m the one who is out of touch!
    It’s in pretty common use where I live, or at least in the circles in which I move, and has been for at least a decade or more. In my experience, people above the age of, say, 30 are more likely to refer to a live-in significant other as a “partner” rather than as a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”

  • I don't think there is a word for "person I had unprotected casual sex with". There isn't a word for it, because you don't have a relationship with that person. They aren't your anything.

    They're Jessica's father, or John's mother.

    "This is my son John, and this is his mother Katie" seems to be perfectly adequate.

    ETA: And in most cases, that's what's important. The details of your quondam relationship with Katie aren't really anyone's business. She's the mother of your child.

    Many people may not like it, but having children out of wedlock with people that one has no intention of marrying has become so common among the working classes on both sides of the Atlantic that there should be a name for the relationship that exists between the parents because of the shared responsibility for raising children that they have. They often are also friends and might have an on again-off again sexual relationship. But because of the financial insecurity of both partners, they usually choose not to marry because they don’t want to commit to a partner with an unsure future. Babymomma and baby daddy arose as terms because of the frequency of this situation, and I was just wondering what the socially acceptable term for this relationship is that I could say without sounding condescending.
  • Try "co-parents."
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I don't think there is a word for "person I had unprotected casual sex with". There isn't a word for it, because you don't have a relationship with that person.

    If you are both parenting the same child, you sure as hell do have a relationship.
    Try "co-parents."

    Kinda clinical, but perfectly adequate.
  • Many people may not like it, but having children out of wedlock with people that one has no intention of marrying has become so common among the working classes on both sides of the Atlantic that there should be a name for the relationship that exists between the parents because of the shared responsibility for raising children that they have.

    Your initial post was concerned with how "you" want a name for the other parent of your child if your relationship wasn't close enough that describing them as your ex felt right. My point is that if you don't have a current domestic relationship with the person, but they are the other parent of your child, does it actually matter whether they were a one-night stand, a friend with benefits, an "it's complicated", a boy/girlfriend, live-in partner, or whatever else? Why are the details of your past sexual involvement with this person anyone's business?

    (And I'll note that "babymomma" or whatever is inadequate, because there are reasonable odds that you have more than one baby, and they have different mommas. Is this Jack's mother, or Jill's mother?)

    I've heard co-parent used from time to time, but usually either as "Katie and I co-parent Jack" or "Katie and I are co-parents". I wouldn't expect to hear "Katie is my co-parent": that sounds wrong.

    Generally speaking, I'd say that co-parent implies a somewhat equal measure of involvement in raising the child, whereas I don't think babymomma carries that implication.
  • To refer to a husband/wife/partner of whatever sexual proclivity or age, friend of mine has a particularly louche way of calling them "lover" which comes out* "lllovah". I quite like that.

    *Sorry for the pun.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host

    (And I'll note that "babymomma" or whatever is inadequate, because there are reasonable odds that you have more than one baby, and they have different mommas. Is this Jack's mother, or Jill's mother?)

    No more inadequate than 'ex,' or indeed 'sister,' 'son,' 'step-daughter,' 'aunt,' 'cousin,' 'brother-in-law,' etc. There are plenty of relationship names that aren't necessarily exclusive to one person in your life, and easy enough to clarify which one you mean.
  • Leorning CnihtLeorning Cniht Shipmate
    edited August 5
    fineline wrote: »
    No more inadequate than 'ex,' or indeed 'sister,' 'son,' 'step-daughter,' 'aunt,' 'cousin,' 'brother-in-law,' etc. There are plenty of relationship names that aren't necessarily exclusive to one person in your life, and easy enough to clarify which one you mean.

    It's a fair point - English doesn't have different words for mother's brother and father's brother, and so on - although I'd argue that people almost never want to clarify whether Uncle Paul is brother to their mother or their father, or even whether he's married to the sister of one of those people, or is an honorary uncle, or a more distant relative granted the courtesy of 'uncle' or ...

    I suppose from my point of view, the important thing about Katie is that she's Jack's mother. If Jack hadn't been conceived, then you and Katie would have been ships that passed in the night. You have a long-term relationship with Katie because, and only because, you share a child. I suppose where I'm really going with this is that your relationship with Katie is that she's your son's mother, rather than your anything.

    Similarly, there's no word for "your mother's boyfriend". In some contexts, he might take on a parental role and you might call him a stepfather, but otherwise the only real relationship you have is that you each have a relationship with your mother, and so there's no need for any descriptor other than "my mother's boyfriend". I suppose I see "babymomma" in the same lights. You have a relationship with your "babymomma" only by virtue of the fact that you both care for the same child, and necessarily cooperate over that child's upbringing. Would anyone feel the need to have a word such as "Mommalover" (or perhaps a similar, rather cruder phrase?) to refer to their maternal parent's current sexual partner? This is Ken, my Mommalover?


    ETA: generic "you", of course.
  • Wedlock is an antiquated term for me.

    It's much more common to live together before getting married here. Common-law couples are treated differently in different Canadian provinces. In mine, once you've lived together for a year you are the same as married. Couples who move may find it's not equivalent if they move to another province.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    To me 'my mother's boyfriend' is a term in itself, and the main difference between that and 'my mommalover' is in the latter you've combined two words so there is no space between them. Which makes no practical difference when you are talking anyway. I mean, you could say 'mother-in-law' is three words. I don't see a reason for a term to be combined/hyphenated to become official. Both mommalover and babymomma also sound slangy. Like changing mother-in-law to mommalaw. I'd personally use the term 'mother' and use full grammar, because when referring to these people in this way, you're likely talking to someone you don't know very well, otherwise you'd surely just use the person's name.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited August 5
    Here in the United State, many older people who rely on the social security benefits of a previous spouse believe they will lose those benefits should the spouse dies and the survivor remarries. Consequently, many older couples do identify their significant other as their partner. Sometimes, they will ask a clergy person to perform a marriage without a license as a workaround.

    Someone with a background in law maybe can explain this better than I can.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate



    To me 'my mother's boyfriend' is a term in itself, and the main difference between that and 'my mommalover' is in the latter you've combined two words so there is no space between them. Which makes no practical difference when you are talking anyway. I mean, you could say 'mother-in-law' is three words. I don't see a reason for a term to be combined/hyphenated to become official. Both mommalover and babymomma also sound slangy. Like changing mother-in-law to mommalaw. I'd personally use the term 'mother' and use full grammar, because when referring to these people in this way, you're likely talking to someone you don't know very well, otherwise you'd surely just use the person's name.

    Mommalover and mommalaw don't really sound slang to me but rather words a newspaper columnist thougt up. Don't worry too much about them. They'll be gone by the end of next week (I'm posting on Thursday afternoon here) and I'm prepared to put some money on their vanishing some time around 3.35 pm on Tuesday.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate
    edited August 5
    Babymother is a common usage in Afro-Caribbean communities - to the extent that there's a 1998 film with that name. As is Babyfather - the BBC had a series called Babyfather based on the book by Patrick Augustus, which was published in 2001. So those terms have been around for a decade and more, I've heard them used by work colleagues. Sorry about that for all of those of you who hate them.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Yes, someone (maybe you) had mentioned earlier that there were race associations with those terms, so I'd imagined that. I don't think anyone had said they didn't like the terms, but they would certainly sound odd and slangy to me if middle class white English people started to say them. I'd imagine Afro Caribbean people would think so too, and may not welcome us appropriating their language. My point was we don't need a new term if we are using 'My baby's mother,' as it's just as much a real term as 'my babymomma.'
  • To refer to a husband/wife/partner of whatever sexual proclivity or age, friend of mine has a particularly louche way of calling them "lover" which comes out* "lllovah". I quite like that.

    *Sorry for the pun.

    which is great until you go to the West Country, especially around Bath, and 'my lover' is a throwaway to refer to anyone you happen to be talking to - 'there you go my lover' etc
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    The years I lived in the States, what I found amusing/confusing was that people I knew used “girlfriend” and sometimes “boyfriend” to refer to a person with whom one was in fact friendly. This was Chicago, and may have stemmed from the Black culture whereby my Black friends would often greet me “How you doin’ Girlfriend?” But there were people of all ethnicities who used girlfriend etc. literally.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    Girlfriend is used in the UK now, in its literal meaning as well as its romantic reason, since we have so much influence from the US.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    It's not just used as a euphemism for what used to be called living in sin. These days (UK) I frequently hear it being used of people who are married to each other in the conventional way. People even refer to their husbands or wives as their partners. It seems to be being used that way as an attempt not to draw a distinction between couples who are properly married to each other and those who are not, a sort of nondiscriminatory gesture.

    Rant warning:

    It's a usage that really annoys me. As a retired lawyer, 'partner' to me means something totally different, which has a lot to do with liability and nothing to do with sex, affection or romance.

    Whether married or not, however lovey-dovey people are, they don't usually think they are committing to paying each other's debts however incurred and to random and unknown third parties.

    I also get very irritated by people who use 'partnering' to mean little more than 'working co-operatively. It's commercially an very dangerous thing to say.

    Rant warning all clear:

    'Boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' here don't convey sharing of living accommodation or any sort of permanence. I'd say that they correspond to the US practice of using 'date' to describe a person, which isn't that usual here.


  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    "Partner has a specific legal meaning so its more general meanings shouldn't be used"

    Well, good luck with that.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Indeed ; the “uck” teminds me of my saintly and irreverent maternal grandmother who described the (now) spouse as “ your defuckto”, bless her
  • Gill HGill H Shipmate
    Try being married to someone who works at a large department store whose staff are known as 'partners' (with good reason as they actually co-own the business, rather than as an affectation in the way some coffee shops apparently do).

    It can get very confusing!
  • Partner is a great term to use when you don't know the gender of someone's significant other, or their marital status. And like others have said 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' start to sound ridiculous with older people.
  • I've been using 'do you have a partner or spouse' when clerking patients since the 80s, as I didn't want to presume marriage or the sex of their significant other.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    "Partner has a specific legal meaning so its more general meanings shouldn't be used"

    Well, good luck with that.
    Indeed. As @fineline noted, according to the OED, that shop sailed with regard to “partner” over 400 years ago.

    Besides, it’s hardly rare for words to have a specific, limited meaning within a particular discipline and wider meanings in more general usage.


    Cathscats wrote: »
    The years I lived in the States, what I found amusing/confusing was that people I knew used “girlfriend” and sometimes “boyfriend” to refer to a person with whom one was in fact friendly. This was Chicago, and may have stemmed from the Black culture whereby my Black friends would often greet me “How you doin’ Girlfriend?” But there were people of all ethnicities who used girlfriend etc. literally.
    “Girlfriend” is very commonly used in the US by females to refer to close female friends, and has been used that way for a long time. I’ve never heard “boyfriend” used by a male in the same way, though.

  • Cathscats wrote: »
    The years I lived in the States, what I found amusing/confusing was that people I knew used “girlfriend” and sometimes “boyfriend” to refer to a person with whom one was in fact friendly. This was Chicago, and may have stemmed from the Black culture whereby my Black friends would often greet me “How you doin’ Girlfriend?” But there were people of all ethnicities who used girlfriend etc. literally.

    I hear is occasionally asked if a girlfriend or boyfriend was a "kissing boy" or girl.

    "How are you doing friend?" is relatively common among Cree speaking First Nations people here. Often in the form of "How 'r you doing neech?, Neech being a shorter version of neechie meaning "friend" (full phrase "tanisi neechie?")
  • I've been using 'do you have a partner or spouse' when clerking patients since the 80s, as I didn't want to presume marriage or the sex of their significant other.

    But 'or spouse' is actually redundant in the way we use it in UK, as partner includes all types of couples relationships including spouses.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    People do sometimes interpret partner to mean outside of wedlock though, here in the UK, so 'a partner or spouse' seems a tactful way to word it. Just remembering that when my grandmother died, some people went to my grandad's house to sort out something or other regarding the official stuff that needs doing when someone dies, and they referred to my grandmother as 'your partner,' and my grandad (who was always rather volatile) was furious at them, as he saw that as suggesting they had been 'living in sin,' as he saw it!
  • edited August 5
    I was listening to a discussion of insurance today, mostly it focussed on travel. The English person said "cover" when we would say "coverage". "There is variable insurance coverage..." for me. It would never be cover. We would say what does the insurance cover, but the noun is coverage invariably. What do other places say?

    We might have discussed baking, and the proofing of yeast or loaves. I believe it is said proving in the UK. Is this correct?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    You will hear females calling each other girlfriend. The closest you will hear males call each other is "Bro." It started out among African Americans but it is quite common among young adult males now. That, or boss--usually referring to an older male, not necessarily an employer.
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    You will hear females calling each other girlfriend.
    I've heard this only with exaggerated inflection and teasingly.

    Buddy is the word I'd use for a male friend. My mate is my wife.
  • Sojourner wrote: »
    Indeed ; the “uck” teminds me of my saintly and irreverent maternal grandmother who described the (now) spouse as “ your defuckto”, bless her

    :smiley: Your grandmother sounds rather fun.
    fineline wrote: »
    People do sometimes interpret partner to mean outside of wedlock though, here in the UK,

    Yes, I know a number of people who take umbrage at "partner" in a similar way to your grandfather. Also some elderly women who take offense at anything other than "Mrs John Smith" (because "Mrs Jane Smith" implies a divorce). And, of course, a number of other women who take great offense at "Mrs John Smith". So I think "partner or spouse" is good for avoiding offense, even though you might think it technically redundant.

  • @Gramps49 You hear the same thing in South Africa. When I first arrived there I was a bit startled at the forwardness of the tote for a minibus-cab hailing a group of young women to see whether they wanted a ride, "Girlfirends! Seapoint?" (Seapoint being a district of Cape Town.) Similarly, men are addressed as "Bru/bra/bro" depending on their accent/linguistic heritage.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    And, of course, a number of other women who take great offense at "Mrs John Smith". So I think "partner or spouse" is good for avoiding offense, even though you might think it technically redundant.

    Just plain "partner" is enough here, as it includes "spouse".
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    'Boyfriend' and 'girlfriend' here don't convey sharing of living accommodation or any sort of permanence.

    Nor do they here. They allow for that, but don't refer solely to such relationships.
  • But 'or spouse' is actually redundant in the way we use it in UK, as partner includes all types of couples relationships including spouses.
    This was in the 80s when partner wasn’t so common (though it was the norm in my HIV clinic in the 1990s). If I was still interviewing patients now it would just be partner.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I was listening to a discussion of insurance today, mostly it focussed on travel. The English person said "cover" when we would say "coverage". "There is variable insurance coverage..." for me. It would never be cover. We would say what does the insurance cover, but the noun is coverage invariably. What do other places say?

    We might have discussed baking, and the proofing of yeast or loaves. I believe it is said proving in the UK. Is this correct?
    That's correct. I've never heard 'coverage' and the verb is 'prove' not 'proof'' here. It's following the standard rule about shifting the stress down the word when it's used as one.

    Thinking about this which I've never noticed before, and oddly, if 'proof' is tagged onto another word, e.g. 'waterproof' and that's then used as a verb, it remains 'waterproof'. Possibly the 'proof' bit is instinctively seen as remaining an attached adjective but I don't know and can't say.

  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    'Guv' for guv'nor (governor) used fo be common among taxi-drivers in London within living memory ('Where to, guv?) . Now seems to be confined to British police-procedural radio or TV crime series, used by junior detectves addressing immediate superiors.
  • Do you go on hikes, treks, tramps? We go on hikes. If it's aimless with no goal I might say we're going on a ramble.

    I might bring a knapsack with lunch in it. A backpack is a larger thing or for kids taking books etc to school. The ones shaped like sausages are duffels, smaller ones are gym bags regardless of what they hold.
  • I've been using 'do you have a partner or spouse' when clerking patients since the 80s, as I didn't want to presume marriage or the sex of their significant other.

    But 'or spouse' is actually redundant in the way we use it in UK, as partner includes all types of couples relationships including spouses.

    You have to be careful though - in my naval days (and not a million years ago either) we sent out a series of invitations to quite a high profile event, all copy signed off well in advance and designed to be as inclusive as possible.

    The first reply I got was (and this is burned on my brain even now) 'thankyou for your very kind invitation to what looks like it will be a wonderful event. However, as I don't have a partner, only my wife Lady X, I will be unable to attend.'
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Do you go on hikes, treks, tramps? We go on hikes. If it's aimless with no goal I might say we're going on a ramble.

    I might bring a knapsack with lunch in it. A backpack is a larger thing or for kids taking books etc to school. The ones shaped like sausages are duffels, smaller ones are gym bags regardless of what they hold.

    Walks. With a rucksack, which may be a daysack if it's small. Duffel bags are not backpacks. They're duffel bags.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Do you go on hikes, treks, tramps? We go on hikes. If it's aimless with no goal I might say we're going on a ramble.

    I might bring a knapsack with lunch in it. A backpack is a larger thing or for kids taking books etc to school. The ones shaped like sausages are duffels, smaller ones are gym bags regardless of what they hold.
    It’s a hike or a walk here. And I haven’t heard knapsack since I was a kid in the 60s and 70s. Folks here would generally carry a backpack or a gym sack/drawstring bag (like small backpack with drawstrings). “Backpack” here covers everything from a small bag to a school bag for books to a pack for hiking or camping.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Discussion on the proper use of Miss, Mrs, Ms, or Mx here.

    However, around my parts of the country, one seldom uses formal titles anyway. I worked for a little while at the University Parking Department. I never called my boss, Mrs. C---h (name obscured to protect the innocent). Her name was Becky which was interesting because we had three Beckys in shop.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I went for a tramp in the park. But he got away.

    A hike is over open country with proper boots and a map.

    A trek is getting the wagons/oxen/ragged remnant/orphans across the plains/mountains before winter/the rains/the pursuing army catches up with you.

    A ramble is a group, in cagoules with packs of sandwiches.

    A walk is a largely purposeless circuit of between one and five miles.

    A dander is much the same, but a lot shorter and with conversation.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    And I haven’t heard knapsack since I was a kid in the 60s and 70s.

    "Knapsack" is the kind of word my mother uses, and I'm pretty sure she used it last time we had a conversation about her going walking somewhere, which would have been a few months ago.

    I often hear "daypack" for a small backpack used to hold the day's essentials, as opposed to a "backpack" which would also hold your tent, sleeping bag, food, and so on. But used by itself, backpack includes small daypacks and school bags, as you say.

    I've seen people take drawstring bags with them on walks. I'd assume those people aren't walking very far, or carrying much weight, because using the strings as a strap becomes rather uncomfortable after a while.

    But I'm not sure I know what the item that @NOprophet_NØprofit describes is - the "knapsack" that is too small to carry some school books, but might contain a lunch. Are you describing a bag with one or two shoulder straps, or something handheld, or what?

  • Enoch wrote: »
    Thinking about this which I've never noticed before, and oddly, if 'proof' is tagged onto another word, e.g. 'waterproof' and that's then used as a verb, it remains 'waterproof'. Possibly the 'proof' bit is instinctively seen as remaining an attached adjective but I don't know and can't say.

    I think you can keep the adjective "proof" as "proof" even if you verb it. You might, if you have to, talk about a proofreader "proofing" a copy: I don't think you'd say that they proved it.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I think the only place I've ever heard 'knapsack' was in a 'jollyish' sort of song that used to be played on things like Children's Favourites 65+ years ago. It included the line
    "My knapsack on my back"
    I still use the words 'rucksack' to mean a backpack and 'haversack' to mean a small bag, likely to be khaki, that has a strap a bit like a satchel worn over one shoulder and is suitable to put sandwiches and a notebook in. However, I think a lot of people would regard both words as old-fashioned and about as uncool as skiffle.

    These days some people have taken to referring to haversacks derogatively as 'manbags'.

    I agree with @Firenze on the use of various words meaning different sorts of walks.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host, 8th Day Host
    I had a discussion on facebook about walk v hike, in the UK and in North America, and there was no consensus among anyone! North Americans were all saying different things about precisely what they consider a hike to be. I was trying to work out if my two-hour walk through the woods would be a hike in North American terminology, and no one could agree - they all had different criteria.

    I use 'backpack' and 'rucksack' interchangeably, I have several of different sizes, and I take one with me wherever I go, whether to Asda, to work, to the gym, or to go swimming in the sea. It's handy for carrying stuff in general, as I don't have a car.
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