From the NYT obit for actor Farley Granger (written by Neil Genzlinger):

[Alfred Hitchcock, who directed Granger in Rope and Strangers on a Train] “could make the phone book sound intriguing,” Mr. Granger said in his 2007 autobiography, “Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway,” written with his longtime romantic partner Robert Calhoun.

Yes, longtime romantic partner.

The expression manages to combine the older expression longtime companion (with euphemistic companion, and longtime added to convey some serious commitment in the relationship; the 1989 film Longtime Companion “takes its title from the words The New York Times used to describe the surviving same-sex partner of someone who had died of AIDS during the 1980s” (link)) and the newer romantic partner (with romantic added to plain partner to distinguish the relationship from that of business partners and conveying a relationship that is both loving and sexual).

In contrast, the obit for George Tooker, from the same day, discussed here, uses the simple partner, which is clear enough in context:

With his partner, the painter William Christopher, Mr. Tooker moved into a loft on West 18th Street in Manhattan, making custom furniture to supplement his art income.

My custom used to be to refer to Jacques as my partner, though that wasn’t always understood and sometimes seemed to me to fall short of expressing the depth of our relationship (while my boyfriend would have fallen way short). Before same-sex marriage became available, my husband was unacceptable to many people (who would lecture me that I couldn’t possibly have a husband); afterwards it was inaccurate (and consequently rejected by many people), since Jacques and I missed the same-sex marriage train. More recently, in informal contexts I’ve taken to referring to him as my man, or when I want to be more pointedly political, my husband-equivalent.


4 Responses to “partners”

  1. irrationalpoint Says:

    I’ve recently started hearing (especially in asexual circles, and especially politicised asexual circles) romantic partner used for someone who is *not* a sexual partner, but with whom one has a serious/longterm/significant connection in other ways. So one sometimes hears romantic partner and sexual partner as alternatives.

    “afterwards it was inaccurate (and consequently rejected by many people)”

    When someone introduces their spouse to me, it doesn’t occur to me to ask if they mean “we have a marriage that is recognised by the state, with bits of paper and stuff like that” or “we consider ourselves to be married even if the state does not recognise our marriage”. It seems terribly sad, although perhaps not entirely surprising, that other people would.



  2. Ann Burlingham Says:

    One thing I like about Australian, and now that I’m listening to more BBC podcasts, clearly British usage, too, is that people are very comfortable using the term “partner” to refer to their own or others’ life partners, of either sex, without further explanation.

  3. irrationalpoint Says:

    “people are very comfortable using the term “partner” to refer to their own or others’ life partners, of either sex, without further explanation.”

    That’s my experience too, to the point that if someone does offer some further specification, it’s contrastive. For example, in my vocabulary, a partner means something like “a loving/serious/longterm significant other”, but sexual partner means “someone with whom one has sex, not necessarily in a relationship context”, and as I said above romantic partner is “something with whom one does not have sex but does have some sort of serious/longterm/loving relationship with”, and life partner means something like “lifelong, as in formerly childhood sweetheart and now partner, or some similar type of timeline”.


  4. Four deaths « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] longtime partner and companion describing Hatcher; on these expressions, see here. And note the management of pronominal reference in “had urged him to direct it before he […]

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