X marrying Y <> Y marrying X?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Sep 10 20:08:25 UTC 2007

At 3:21 PM -0400 9/10/07, Baker, John wrote:
>         The point is, if it's mutual, you don't have to tell who is the
>marrier and who is the marriee.  I suppose that the Commonwealth of
>Virginia would have contrasted their statute to a hypothetical statute
>that imposed penalties upon a black person who entered into marriage
>with a white person, but not upon the white spouse.
>         I am reminded of Dunsany's story, "Jorkens' Revenge," in which
>the eponymous hero won a bet that the distance from Westminster Bridge
>to Blackfriars Bridge is greater than the distance from Blackfriars
>Bridge to Westminster Bridge.  The other characters somehow expected
>that the two distances would be the same.
"marry" has not always been taken to be reciprocal or symmetric.
Here is R. G. White (_Words and their Uses_, 1886: 139-40) on the
The usual form of making the announcement is -- Married, John Smith
with Mary Jones, and in others -- John Smith and Mary Jones.  I have
no hesitation in saying all these forms are incorrect.  We know,
indeed, what is meant by any one of them; but the same is true of
hundreds and thousands of erroneous uses of language. Properly
speaking, a man is not married to a woman, or married with her; nor
are a man and woman married with each other. The woman is marrried to
the man. It is her name that is lost in his, not his in hers; she
mbecomes a member of his family, not he of hers; it is her life that
is merged, or supposed to be merged, in his, not his in hers; hse
follows his fortunes, and takes his station not he hers. And thus,
manifestly, she has been attached to him by a legal bond, not he to
her; except, indeed, as all attachment is necessarily mutual. But
nevertheless, we do not speak of tying a ship to a boat, but a boat
to a ship. And so long, as least, as man is the larger, the stronger,
the more individually important, as long as woman generally lives in
her husband's house and bears his name, -- still more should she not
bear his name, --it is the woman who is married to the man.

And don't you forget it.
(Cited by Ann Bodine in her excellent "Androcentrism in prescriptive
grammar", Language in Society, 1975.  Talk about prescriptivism!)


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