Archive for the ‘ConNotes’ Category


ConNotes #2: ‘Gift’

November 22, 2008
Gift Box

Gift Box (Photo credit: Maeflower72)

In a LiveJournal community I frequent, a poster described a situation where she had been invited to a baby shower and that the invitation had included instructions on which gift she was expected to buy.

To me, the woman holding the baby shower has mangled the meaning of the word ‘gift.’ I feel that the choice of a gift, including whether or not to even give a gift, is entirely within the domain of the giver.

On the other hand, at least in the United States, with certain events come the expectation that at least some attendees will bring presents. These actions fall under the umbrella of ‘tradition’, and we all know that traditions have a funny way of changing the meaning of many things, up to and including their own origins. So how far are people stretching the word ‘gift’, and its meaning, really?

It’s possible that this boils down to etiquette and not the interpretation of a single word. I think that it wouldn’t be an issue of etiquette if different people weren’t assigning different definitions to the same word, so it’s still a matter worth discussing on Word Watcher.

What do you think? Has the meaning of the word gift changed sufficiently for people to expect to receive one at a party/shower without qualification? How about instructing each person attending that party to buy a specific gift?


ConNotes #1: Husband and Wife

September 22, 2008

As my wedding swiftly approaches, I often find myself contemplating the nature of marriage. Family members and friends are quick to tell me that my life will be irrevocably altered by this union, and many of them imply that the alteration will be for the worse rather than the better. “He won’t hold the door for you anymore when you’re married,” they say, or “Don’t get used to him complimenting you like he does – marriage will change that.”

My fiancée and I have cohabitated for five years and we’ve been friends much longer, so it’s difficult for me to see our relationship undergoing any dramatic transformation simply by changing our referential titles to ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ But then, when I more closely examine these words, it occurs to me that I do not have many positive associations with them. Both ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are loaded with unpleasant stereotypes in my mind thanks to my exposure to broken relationships in the media and in my own household growing up. Recognizing my own negative interpretations of these words helped me identify the power that these titles hold over the people they are bestowed upon. Someone’s notions about a particular role in a relationship can shape how that relationship develops. This may be how many people come to see marriage as the genesis of spite or frigidity: they are influenced by their unconscious associations with their title as ‘husband’ or ‘wife.’ On the reverse side, the power of these words may also be the key to nurturing very successful relationships, especially if the people involved can harness that power and make it their own.

How have your perceptions of the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ shaped your perceptions of marriage? What does it mean to you to be a husband or a wife? Do you adulate or condemn marriage, or something in between? Remember: this isn’t about right or wrong. This is about sharing your interpretations and reading those of your fellow word watchers. You never know: you might learn something.