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Re: "Live-in lover"

Posted by ESC on October 26, 2003

In Reply to: "Live-in lover" posted by Yvonne on October 26, 2003

: The expression is now in common parlance, but when did it originate? Was it the 20th century (maybe the Swingin' Sixties) -- or perhaps even earlier?

I don't have anything specific. This first passage, from a book published in the 90s, mentions "live-in" boyfriend or girlfriend as a recent development phrase-wise:

SIGNIFICANT OTHER -- ".the growing tolerance for non-traditional domestic arrangements, both hetero-and homosexual, has necessitated the coining of new words to describe the partners. While 'girlfriend' and 'boyfriend' have been standard terminology in America for decades, they have recently given way to such words as 'companion' (usually gay or lesbian), 'live-in' girlfriend or boyfriend, and the genderless 'significant other.'" From "Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997). A second reference says, Significant other - "n. a sexual partner or spouse. Originally North American, one of a string of candidates tried out for the vacancy when changing social conventions created the need for a non-sex-specific term for a (long-term cohabiting) sexual partner (see also POSSLQ - 1979). This one was an adaptation of an already existing piece of social psychologists' jargon denoting 'someone with great influence on the self-opinion, behavior, etc. of another, especially a child' (first recorded in 1940)." POSSLQ meaning "partner (or person) of opposite sex sharing living quarters" coined in 1978 by Arthur J. Norton, a member of the US Census Bureau. "It was never adopted by the Bureau, and its bizarre form means it has never been regarded as much more than a joke word." From "20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).

"Companion," by the way, is not new. There are old songs that refer to "my dear companion." And my mother, who was married to my father, referred to him as "my companion." Kind of sweet, I thought.