Heaven: 2021 Proof Americans and Brits speak a different language

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  • We drive 14 hours to visit our daughter and 4 hours to our cabin. Fairly typical for western Canada.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    I remember one year in which we did two long drives of two/three days. In one we travelled from Scotland to northern Slovenia, passing through numerous landscapes, cultures, architecture and languages. In the other we drove through British Columbia. We passed a lot of trees.
  • Firenze wrote: »
    I remember one year in which we did two long drives of two/three days. In one we travelled from Scotland to northern Slovenia, passing through numerous landscapes, cultures, architecture and languages. In the other we drove through British Columbia. We passed a lot of trees.

    I used to think that boredom while travelling was impossible. Then we drove the length of Lake Superior, just south of the lake. With the 55 mph speed limit at that time and camping half way along it, it took most of two days and we saw only trees. The map says it's not much more than 400 miles, but it seemed like twice that.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I remember travelling in a coach for a couple of hours from London (some young people's Christian event) when I was a young adult. The person sitting next to me was Australian and she commented on how astonishing she found it that the scenery kept changing within such a short time - that we'd gone past various key buildings and countryside, and all sorts of other things. I was bewildered what point she was making, and she said that in Australia you could drive for hours without much change. This had simply never occurred to me, and it still didn't seem like something particularly one would even notice or care about, but when I went on a road trip in Canada, I finally understood her perspective. Hours of the same. And such a long journey.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    In my medium sized province in Canada, can drive easily drive 8 to 10 hours within. Sask is just a little smaller than Texas and not quite twice the size of California. American states are on average not huge. Someone may answer for Australia.

    Also in Canada: It's a full day to drive across the island of Newfoundland from the capital in St. John's, where I live, to the place on the west coast where you get the ferry to take you off the island -- a solid 10 hours of driving at least. And that's not even taking into account how big Labrador is!
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    In my medium sized province in Canada, can drive easily drive 8 to 10 hours within. Sask is just a little smaller than Texas and not quite twice the size of California. American states are on average not huge. Someone may answer for Australia.

    With 2 drivers, Sydney to Melbourne of Brisbane (the capitals of the adjoining States) can be done in a day on roads of reasonable quality. Sydney to Broken Hill, almost at the far western boundary of the NSW is best made a drive extending well into the second day. The same for Wentworth at the south-western corner. The north-western corner is another matter. You can get to Bourke, a fair bit of the way, in a day and a half; from there to Tibooburra is about 450 km and you'd have to allow 8 hours plus for driving time with breaks for lunch etc on top. The road is not smooth tarmac. And when you get to South Australia or the Northern Territory let alone Queensland or Western Australia distances and times just go out.
  • orfeoorfeo Suspended
    There's no doubt that people's conception of distance is shaped by where they live, and we have a tendency to imagine all countries as "country-sized".

    The first time I went overseas, to the UK, I was planning beforehand and trying to work out how long to stay in various places. There was one leg where I thought I needed to allow that I wouldn't see much on the first day after arriving by train, only to then work out that I'd easily get there in time for morning tea.

    Conversely, I've heard of an English guy who was imagining a trip from Canberra to Perth would be roughly similar to one from London to Cornwall, and was utterly shocked when Australians debated whether he could make it in 3 days (it's about 38-40 hours drive according to different websites).
  • And what was intended as a joke, sprouted legs. Oh, well.
  • It's the Ship, of course it did!

    We used to get regular laughs when family visiting from Vietnam (not ours, people in the church's) would casually toss off their intent to visit Disneyland the next morning, and maybe take in the Grand Canyon on their way back. We were like "Do you realize that's a four thousand mile round trip?"
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Nonsense. Anyone who's watched films set in foreign locations knows that all the principal sights of any given country/city are all located within easy walking distance of each other.
  • When did “partner” become the word that most Brits (and much of the English speaking world) use for what Americans would call a boyfriend or girlfriend of the same or another gender? Every time I read it used this way I think “gay/bi,” “business partner,” or “someone is making a point about gender neutral language” until I realize that that is how the word is used by many outside the US. Here in everyday language boyfriend and girlfriend are used to refer to everything more serious than casual dating as long as no formal legal relationship has been created (and no marriage engagement has been made), even if people have shared their lives and home for decades and raised children. Some people say partner but I just have never seen it catch on with people young or old unless they are trying to make a point. And I am ensconced in a liberal coastal bubble of highly educated people. Some people still say partner to refer specifically to same sex unmarried couples but they tend to be older and out of touch even if we’ll-intentioned (but that’s just my observation - shipmates who use the term that way may not be that way at all!).

    Does anyone know when or why partner began to be used that way it is in the UK and elsewhere? What term was used there before?
  • 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.

  • When did “partner” become the word that most Brits (and much of the English speaking world) use for what Americans would call a boyfriend or girlfriend of the same or another gender? Every time I read it used this way I think “gay/bi,” “business partner,” or “someone is making a point about gender neutral language” until I realize that that is how the word is used by many outside the US. Here in everyday language boyfriend and girlfriend are used to refer to everything more serious than casual dating as long as no formal legal relationship has been created (and no marriage engagement has been made), even if people have shared their lives and home for decades and raised children. Some people say partner but I just have never seen it catch on with people young or old unless they are trying to make a point. And I am ensconced in a liberal coastal bubble of highly educated people. Some people still say partner to refer specifically to same sex unmarried couples but they tend to be older and out of touch even if we’ll-intentioned (but that’s just my observation - shipmates who use the term that way may not be that way at all!).

    Does anyone know when or why partner began to be used that way it is in the UK and elsewhere? What term was used there before?

    As a first guess, it started up when the terms ‘common law husband/wife’ started to drop away. Although that feels like an unusual (unique?) victory for pedantry: in English (although not Scottish) law the only way of establishing a husband and wife relationship is through a marriage ceremony.

  • 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.
    Well, I totally mangled that on my phone. It should read:

    I know plenty of American adults who use “partner” to refer to someone they’re living with (or who someone else is with living with) but not legally married to, especially if they have kids.

  • When did “partner” become the word that most Brits (and much of the English speaking world) use for what Americans would call a boyfriend or girlfriend of the same or another gender?

    "Partner" implies a long-term shared-lives arrangement that girlfriend or boyfriend doesn't. I think I first encountered its use among straight couples with some sort of philosophical objection to marriage, but it was in reasonably common use for both straight and gay couples in the early 90s - definitely implying a long-term life-sharing arrangement without legal sanction.
  • None of the terms work very well. Boyfriend/girlfriend implies immaturity in the very name of it; I can't get over, say, an 80-yo introducing me to her "boyfriend." "Partner" makes me think "business," or possibly "tennis." And it's very awkward if I assume one meaning and it turns out to be the other.
  • I date myself here when I say people are "shacked up".
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    In the UK, I've been aware of people using 'partner' as a term for their significant other since around 1990. It was probably used before then, but that is when I first came across it, as a teenager.

    Just checking the OED, and the first recorded usage of 'partner' to mean 'A person who is linked by marriage to another, a spouse; a member of a couple who live together or are habitual companions; a lover.' was in 1577.
  • 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!
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Scots has the useful term 'bidey-in'.
  • 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 2021
    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 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 Deckhand, Styx
    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

    (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 2021
    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
    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 2021
    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 2021
    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
    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
  • 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
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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
    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!
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