The marriage of history and change
I found a great article on the origin of the word marriage (by Jan Freeman of the Boston Globe, published in the International Herald Tribune).
Some have argued that marriage has always meant the union of a man and a woman and can therefore not encompass the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman.
Freeman writes: "Rooting around in the linguistic past doesn't help either side in this debate. In fact, arguing from word origins is such a losing strategy that it even has a name, the etymological fallacy."
But for fun, she digs through the past to find the origins of "marriage." The French gave birth to it in the 14th century, borrowed from the classical Latin maritare -- "a verb used, the Oxford English Dictionary tantalizingly notes, 'of people and animals and in viticulture.' (Did the grapes wed on the vine or in the vat, I wonder? Either way, the metaphor had legs: We still speak of 'marrying' food and wine.)"
There's much more, all a delight to read.
And this is as good a time as any to remind one and all that although one definition of marriage is "an intimate or close union," it's best to avoid the term when gays and lesbians are joined in a civil union. It is too easily confused with same-sex marriages, and the distinction is important, as Massachusetts is proving.