It is such a rare occurrence that I should note that I actually agree with Prime Minister Howard about something. Interviewed on radio today Mrs Howard was referred to as his "partner", the PM remarked that he didn't have a partner, Jeanette was his wife.
This has received all sorts of brickbats today (must be a slow news day). Some ringing in to say how sad it was that the PM didn't view his wife as his partner, one commentator saying that "partner" was a nice word with pleasant connotations.
All that rather misses the point.
Without decrying any of those who choose to be partnered rather than married, or even to describe their legitmate spouses as "my partner", Howard was making a point. It is different to call someone your husband or wife rather than your "partner".
Truculent old thing that I am, I always find myself muttering under my breath when someone asks me "my partner's name"..."I'm not a lawyer, or a doctor".
I actually think the term "partner" is pretty sterile...suitable for lawyers and doctors....and that being a husband or a wife has a much stronger connotation for me.
It does not have that for everyone. One SMS on radio this a.m. said "The last thing I want my partner to do for me is to make me his wife!" There is a difference you see.
"Partner" has some advantages. It is gender neutral. It can apply to same-sex relationships as well as heterosexual relationships. For that matter it could apply to multiple partner relationships. But that is not what I have committed myself to.
My wife and I commit ourselves to marriage. And that is important for us, as well as having being difficult and confronting. I am not content to be reduced down to the lowest common denominator of "partner".
Ok if that's what you want. Not for me, or for little Johnny!