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Distortion of language
8:40am Thursday 3rd May 2012 in Letters
Sir – In relation to recent letters, there seem to be two quite different issues in relation to same-sex marriage. There is the religious view that marriage has a specific reproductive purpose ordained from above (which I’ll leave to those with that perspective) and there is a linguistic issue that has been ignored.
However one looks at it, ‘marriage’, formal or informal (‘common law’), has always in the English language meant a relationship between a man and a woman, with some metaphorical uses arising from that.
To expand it to include gay relationships is a distortion of language and would mean that the word’s use back through history would need modifying with the word ‘heterosexual’ to explain that in those days marriage wasn’t between gays.
I’m surprised that Tony Augarde, lexicographer that he is, should so glibly accept such a fundamental language change.
As an example, the co-option of ‘gay’ to mean homosexual itself brings me up short whenever I read 19th-century or earlier writings, where the word still had its old meaning of happy and carefree.
I have no problem at all with same-sex relationships being formalised and the last Government established ‘civil partnerships’, a well-chosen neutral term, for exactly that purpose.
What is the problem with retaining that set-up, with rights identical to those of man-and-woman marriage? They should of course be permitted to celebrate in any church that accepts the principle.
Dr Anthony Cheke, Oxford