March 31, 2011
Words used to mean something. Take the word “dating,” for example. When I was dating, I picked up a girl at her home. Usually her father and mother were there. I promised to bring her back at a certain hour. Her parents knew where we were going.
Today, “dating” too often means having sex.
And what about fiancée? That used to mean a woman engaged to be married to a man with a date set for the wedding; now it means living together, whether one intends to marry her or not.
"Shacking up" is a far better term to describe these relationships. Oh, and that’s another one. “Relationship.” “In a relationship” is the preferred designation on Facebook. What they usually mean is they are shacking up.
We don’t say what we mean because words like “shacking up” and “pre-marital sex” still convey a judgment about behavior. And judgment, or judgmental-ness, is now thought to be worse than actually shacking up. Words have meaning, after all.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C.