[Ads-l] Just heard on a reality show:

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Wed May 13 12:28:11 UTC 2015

On 5/13/15 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> Date:    Tue, 12 May 2015 18:39:19 -0700
> From:    Benjamin Barrett<gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> Subject: Re: Just heard on a reality show:
> This is something I struggle with. Since my mother's husband never
> adopted me, my understanding is that he's not my stepfather even though
> I usually refer to him that way when stating his relationship to me.
> Neither Wiktionary nor the Oxford Dictionary site include the
> requirement of adoption.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Formerly of Seattle, WA
That's because there is no requirement for adoption. If your mother's 
husband legally adopted you, then he'd be your father, not your stepfather.

My cousin refers to her stepmother as her mother. But, her stepmother 
definitely took on that role when my cousin was very young, and it 
reflects the warm and loving relationship they have.

I never referred to my father's second wife as my stepmother, or I 
strongly resisted it. I was an adult when they married and did not like her.

They're fluid terms. The interviewee's mother may have had 3 marriages, 
and so may have a father, a stepfather, and now what? "Mother's husband" 
implies a certain emotional distance. Yeah, technically another 
stepfather, but we do use terms to show how we think or feel about 

---Amy West

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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