ALWAYS THE TWAIN SHALL MEET
When it comes to marriage for gay people, the biggest objection that seems to surface is the actual use of the word “marriage.” OK, so surrender: let the heteros have it. But now we have to look for a new, or old, word to solve the problem of what to call gay, well, marriages. The faster this problem is solved the faster the political/religious goal of gay “marriage” will take place. And the harder it will be to object to it. No one has really ever proposed such a word — so I do so here for the sake of saving the country from a lot of grief, argument and soul searching.
I don’t believe this word is going to be, or should be, some made up thing, like from a marketing campaign. We’d only wind up with a committee, a focus group and a faddish term. Then we’d face the arduous task of introducing it to the langauge. Rather, it has got be a known word, yet one not burdened with other meanings. One that is perhaps an old word, not much used, but given a new sense, or new meaning. Whatever word it is going to be it will have to be on par with “marriage” — we will settle for nothing less. Even most of our opponents have acceded to our legal connections — they simply disagree with the terminology.
It is true, as even gays must admit, that centuries of tradition holds that marriage is between a man and a women. There’s no way around this fact, so why fight it? Except for our most obstreperous opponents, the reality of marriage — without the word — is going to be accepted for gay people. That’s a fact, too.
This word would need a noun form as well as a verb; and an adjective, to conform to the marriage, marry, married trio. It would also have to have some form to denote one or the other partners in the “marriage,” as husband and wife do for heterosexuals. We already know from gay culture that the word husband is used uncomfortably by the two men, and often two women in a committed relationship. But there is simply no other word currently available. That’s one of the difficulties gays face when trying to get married, what to call each other.
The usual term bandied about by both proponents and opponents is Civil Union — but this is just too political sounding. And what is the verb? “We Civil Unioned yesterday?” Whom are the parties to this civil union — civil unionists? Totally unworkable. If marriage leads to marry to married — all based on the same root — then we need the same sort of word that doesn’t go from Civil Union to commitment to partner. That’s merely scrounging around for any word that wouldn’t offend heterosexuals.
Civil Union might make a great legal term for both heterosexual and homosexual nuptials, but as an everyday word still leaves gay people somewhat short of the goal of equality. Most gay people don’t like it, and by now it has taken on an almost negative aura as a term of second-class status. What we need is a wholly new term for gay people. Marriage can be kept by the religious and traditional — with a new word for gays — and all under the aegis of Civil Union in the law.
Which brings me to Twain. Think about it — a known word, yet long out of regular use. As early as the 1930’s it was considered archaic, only to be used in poetry. It comes from the Old Saxon twegen, meaning literally two. Ironically, it is the masculine form of the word (back when English had genders.) Two itself is the feminine form. The poetic usage surely conjures up the love between two men that, well, dares to shout its name. About the only current usage is “never the twain shall meet.” A phrase uttered less and less each passing day. Most people under 35 barely know it as a word at all, though it lingers in their minds. Yet it’s still in the dictionary, with no alternate meanings, no baggage, no current usage given. No one can claim it as their own, and no one can claim that it steps on anyone’s toes.
It has the requisite meaning of two things together. It has no baggage like lover or partner. It cannot possibly be confused with any other word — or any sense of another word. It is a noun — the twain, or a twain. It already states that there are only two. Oddly, this will also serve to refute the arguments that allowing gay marriage will lead to polygamy and worse. Since twain is only two those people proposing more radical concepts would have to get their own word. You can look that up in the dictionary!
Ideally, twain is easily turned into a verb. At romantic candlelit dinners across the country you could hear things like “George, will you twain me?” “Let’s go to Massachusetts and be twained.” Neatly, it can be used as the name for the spouse, too: “Oh, meet Jimmy, he’s my twain.” In that final moment a preacher could easily say “I now pronounce you twain and twain.”
Another new part, or construction — call it a twainiage, or in an alternate spelling, twainage — would need to be created. Yet it’s perfectly logical within the usual rules of modern English. So heterosexuals could continue to have marriage, and all the marriage laws. And homosexuals could have twainage and all our twainage laws. Those who want to defend marriage could have an easier time — and those who would fight twainage would have to declare their discrimination openly, because they could not complain we are destroying traditional marriage. We’re not getting married, we’re twaining.
Who could complain? Probably only the Mark Twain fans.
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