A week ago Rod Dreher discussed a news article about domestic violence in a lesbian couple in Massachusetts. What made the article deeply weird was the constant use of the phrase "her wife".
Professor Polistra wondered why this combination seemed so absolutely discordant on a grammatical
level, leaving aside all cultural questions. After all, English doesn't have grammatical agreement based on gender, so it's not wrong in the same way as "el esposa" in Spanish or "der Frau" in German.
The answer seems to lie in connectivity requirements. A husband can possess one or more wives; a wife can possess one or more husbands. But you just can't connect
one wife with another.
The newspaper article could have avoided the problem by using spouse
, which doesn't have such restrictions.
Labels: Language update