The OED and "adulterous" & "adultery"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Sep 12 18:23:33 UTC 2009

At 9/12/2009 02:06 PM, ronbutters at AOL.COM wrote:
>"opposite sex" seems archaic.

Perhaps -- what does modern law say?  Must adultery include the
possibility of conception?  (It certainly had to in the early modern period.)


>------Original Message------
>From: Joel S. Berson
>Sender: ADS-L
>To: ADS-L
>ReplyTo: ADS-L
>Subject: [ADS-L] The OED and "adulterous" & "adultery"
>Sent: Sep 12, 2009 10:30 AM
>The OED (1989) defines "adulterous" solely in terms of "adultery"
>--  "1. Pertaining to, or characterized by the practice of adultery"
>(senses 2 and 3 are not relevant here).
>It defines adultery (also 1989) as:
>"1. Violation of the marriage bed; the voluntary sexual intercourse
>of a married person with one of the opposite sex, whether unmarried,
>or married to another ...
>"b. Extended in Scripture, to unchastity generally ..." (Again,
>omitted portions and sense 2 are not relevant.)
>But "adulterous" was not only "extended in Scripture, to unchastity
>generally".  It was extended in colonial New England not to
>"unchastity generally" -- that was "fornication" or "uncleanness" --
>but to unchastity by or with a married person.  This can be seen in
>the reports of numerous legal cases where adultery was suspected or
>charged, but not proven, and "adulterous conduct" found
>instead.  (Where both parties were single, adultery was not charged
>and "adulterous conduct" not found, only "fornication".)
>Can a change in the definitions be expected when the OED gets around
>to the (black and white) A?
>The American Dialect Society -
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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