Thursday, May 20, 2004

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.

8 Comments:

At 2:19 PM, October 12, 2008, Anonymous joesacramento.com said...

Thanks. Trouble is, the link doesn't work. Did you try it before you posted it?

 
At 5:36 PM, October 12, 2008, Blogger Nicole said...

Yep. It worked in 2004, when I wrote this entry. But a news link will seldom still be available four years later.

 
At 9:19 AM, October 19, 2008, Blogger T.V. said...

Well, here we are, 4 years later and the issue of "marriage" still remains unresolved. Perhaps we need to get to the core of the problem. To your example, we also refer to the "christening of ships" . If we were to write this naming of ships into law, using the term "christening" to pertain to this new procedure or ritual or whatever it is, would be an affront to those of Christian faith, and rightfully so. Since "marriage" is a preexisting term which has historically and biblically been used to pertain to the legal and religious sanction of the union between a man and a woman, should it not stand to reason that a new word is created to describe the union between couples of the same gender? For the longest time, our language has not tracked the true separation of church and state. Perhaps this is the time that we ensure that it does.

 
At 9:04 PM, November 09, 2008, Blogger Stephanie said...

Actually Christian emperors Constantius and Constans ruled same-sex marriage to be illegal...
So at some point, some where ...marriage consisted of also a man and a woman. The question yet remains, who first used the word marriage in the traditional sense. Also, what is the traditional sense of marriage as we know it today? Does religion define marriage? If so, then who marries should be left up to the church, not the state. This seems to be a separation of church and state issue. You can email me.
stashy25@yahoo.com

 
At 9:04 PM, November 09, 2008, Blogger Stephanie said...

Wow...I meant man and man/woman and woman haha. Typos...

 
At 4:23 PM, January 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, marriage was used predominantly as the comming-together of two or more things into one new thing. In which case there is also the definition of a pyligimal marriage. Elseways Polygamists could not use the term marriage. But there it is. Tho the term may be used in reference to what is matrimony or whatever not-so-loaded word you can find on a consistant basis may I remind yall that any translated work uses 'marriage' where the translator thinks appropriate and not where the word necessarily exists. Beware. Technically the word marriage is historically not related specifically to anything having to do with espousal joinings. (still grasping for a neutral word here) But rather lets take it for what it IS; in Recent American Popular history of the Christian persuasion the word marriage refers to a man and a woman except in the reference to Polygamist marriages in which case it is deemed plural. In which case, being as we are talking about the joining of all types of religious and . . well. . varied everything else couples of all kinds of backgrounds and whatnot, shouldn't then the State just call all of them some secular term and leave the sifting of ridiculousness of terminology to whoever cares to? For instance, I'm Hindu so what's to be done then? Any good hardcore practicing Catholic should be offended if I use the term marriage. But most of my neighbors don't blink an eye. Maybe the same-sex issue is just as passing until people start worrying about other things. Maybe we'll revert and start worrying about the negative effects of lying and adultery more.
~T

 
At 4:37 AM, November 09, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you please tell me what was the precise name of this article and the date it was published? For some reason I cannot find it electronically.
Thank you!

 
At 2:08 AM, September 02, 2011, Blogger 'Ryn said...

If anyone wants to read the referenced article, you can do so here: http://web.archive.org/web/20040607205002/http://www.iht.com/articles/520661.html

 

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