Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Tue Jul 13 14:43:21 UTC 2004

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of James A. Landau
> Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 3:53 AM
> Subject: Re: question
> When referring to the White House, it is NOT true that the "First Lady" is
> the wife of the President.  The FIrst Lady is the official
> hostess of the United
> States government, which means she is the woman who does the
> formal welcoming
> of the guests when the President, in his/her role as Head of
> State, hosts an
> official event (e.g. a state dinner).

I would disagree with this. Were a bachelor to be elected president, the
press would be filled with articles about how the White House would be run
without a "First Lady." The film "The American President," about a widowed
president falling in love, makes numerous uses of "First Lady" to mean the
wife of the president. (One has to resort to fictional or hypothetical
usages to gauge modern usage because we haven't had an unmarried president
since Wilson.)

Both Safire's "New Political Dictionary" and the OED gloss "First Lady" as
the wife of the president.

The position is unofficial, so she can't be the "official hostess."

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

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