Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Definition of Marriage

I decided to look up the definition of marriage the other day. I was curious as to the exact wording that would be used. I was surprised to see what they had done.

Courtroom WeddingAll sources clearly state that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. No surprise there, this definition has been clearly defined in nearly all societies in history. Though they might recognize other unions, genders or relationships, the clearly defined rules of marriage has always been assigned to a man and a woman.

The entymology of the word relates it both to a man and a woman. The latin matrem (meaning mother) and monium (meaning action, state, condition), together meaning a relationship where the female becomes a mother. This can only happen in a male-female relationship.

Imagine my surprise when some of the dictionaries included a secondary definition including same-sex marriages. The defining of words is a unpassionate discipline that does not bend to the whims of society. If a word falls into general use in society, it's definition needs to be established and subsequently published. If a word is used as slang by a small group and fails to gain such widespread usage or understanding it is not to be entered and called slang. But there it sits, begging the question why?

How about widespread usage? How many people in society use the word "ideal" to mean "idea" (ie. I have a good ideal)? Or how many say "I have more then you" when they mean than? Do you find those definitions in the dictionary? No. Well, what does society think?

Didn't same-sex marriage just become legal in several states? Not by the will of the peoople. In fact, not a single US state has voted in same sex marriage. Whenever the people have been asked to define marriage they have said again and again that it means a union between a man and a woman. Those states that currently allow same sex marriage only do so because millions of dollars were paid to lawyers to make it so. And serving a small group's interests does not a definition change.

Common use is where we derive definitions from and the common use for these alternatives to marriage requires modifiers to avoid confusion. When someone in the media or just a person on the street wants to tell you about the civil union of a homosexual couple they say phrases like "same-sex marriage," "gay marriage" and "homosexual marriage." There is a reason for this, when the general public hears the phrase "married couple" they know that means a man and a woman. Without the modifiers the word's meaning is clear and understood.

If I were to mention dry water an idea pops into your mind contrary to the word water. There are scientific publications that refer to a silica coated substance that is 95% water. It is dry to the touch and could be very useful in chemical applications. If that term were to gain widespread usage would dictionaries then add the "dry" definition to the word water? No, of course not.

By adding the same-sex entries definition of marriage, dictionaries have taken a political stance on the issue. As a percieved neutral source, this is a violation of the public trust in such institutions as dictionaries. I find this unconsionable, irresponsible and damaging. What other definitions can they be persuaded to change?

Be defined.