What do you call a partner nowadays?

While writing the last post I found myself wanting to refer to my partner, “the Stinger”, but stopped myself because it feels like the word “partner” has been corrupted to the point where most people reading would assume that I meant my “lover”.

I’m all in favor of the concept of marriage and other loving relationships evolving with the times, but since some people have appropriated this word for that purpose, I no longer have a way to refer to the guy who’s the Billy the Kid to my Captain America, the Yoshitsune to my Benkei, the Chewbacca to my Han Solo.

Has the word “partner” gone the way of “arousal”, “explicit”, and “intercourse”?

I’ve been linked by a semi-prominent blog…

..and the only thing I’ve got up is the meeting schedule for my run to a biker rally last week, and that’s in Japanese! I guess I need to put up a real post of some sort. Since it was Neal that did the linking, I might as well make this one language-related.

Last week we rode to the Brotherhoods Meeting, a biker rally in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. Great riding and a great rally, but the name’s a little weird, and being one of the token Gaijin I got asked a lot of questions about it.

Since the name is most often written in katakana(the Japanese syllabary) and with no spaces between words to help non-anglophones parse it, most of the Japanese bikers I talked to were under the impression that “hoods” was a separate word, and wanted to know what it meant. This also lead people to abbreviate the meeting as “BHM” (BrotherHoods Meeting) in email and BBS comments.

Also , since the katakana rendering of “brotherhoods”, “burazafuzzu” in Hepburn romanization, contains the hu/fu sound(a bilabial sound somewhere between f and h), many people abbreviated it as “BFM”.

Then there’s the matter of pluralizing the normally uncountable noun “brotherhood”. At first I thought this was just another non-native mistake, but it turns out that it’s intentional. This rally is a meeting of several different MCs(motorcycle clubs), i.e. several diffferent “brotherhoods”. Most of the bikers wore their “colors”, but it was understood that event was not the place for rivalries and feuds.

It turns out that almost no one, even the Matsumoto MC that worked as staff for the meeting, was aware of what the name meant, and most people were really happy to have it finally explained to them. A few people said that understanding the name added to their understanding of the rally and gave it a deeper meaning for them.

I guess I don’t really have a point to make here, except that it can be nice being a roving linguist biker sometimes.

The continuing adventures of a couple of American bikers in the Land of the Rising Sun