More on Marriage (and Words).

Tracie at Jezebel wonders if there’s a better word for fiancé

I never knew how much I hated the word “fiancé” until I got engaged. I kind of cringe when I have to say it to people I don’t really know and lately, I’ve been finding myself saying “my boyfriend,” then quickly, quietly adding “or fiancé, whatever.” The word just sounds so pretentious…and it inherently implies a kind of smugness about marriage that I find embarrassing.

Sadie has the same problem. “I say ‘boyfriend’ and then people check my hand to see if we’ve called it off.” Anna, who got married this past summer said, “I would either say ‘boyfriend’ or i would say ‘fiancé’ but I would preemptively explain how much I hated the word. There was always a warning before it came out of my mouth.”

Sadie suggests that we “just go totally archaic with ‘liege,'” but that still sounds weird. We tried to come up with some other options like “pre-wed” or “GIM” (as in “guy I’m marrying”), but neither of those seem very viable.




Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • How about we borrow from the Bible, sort of, and “Baby Boy” and go with “my rib”?

    I got engaged a month ago and I really haven’t been able to bring myself to use the word “fiance” either. I’ve regretfully slipped back into calling her my “girlfriend.” But somehow I doubt “my rib” is acceptable either.

  • scott

    Tracie should get over her neurosis and use the word fiance. It is french and means what it means. Any pretentiousness or implied smugness is in her own mind.

  • “It is French and means what it means.”

    yes! more insight like this, please. thx!

  • black: you beat me to it. The patriarchy in ‘my rib’ is pretty hard to circumvent.

    Also, what if you’re a non-believer? It has a decidedly Christian shading, no?

  • I’m really big on calling significant others by their names. Folks tend to figure stuff out.

  • ladyfresshh

    What implied smugness?

    The state of marriage these days inclines me more towards sympathy.

  • lf: you just reminded me. ‘these days’ should def go on that irritating words list. oy.

  • Grump

    fiance>>>>>soon to be ball & chain

  • ladyfresshh

    fiance>>>>tax write off

  • ladyfresshh

    gee…thanks G.D.

  • I gotta say, I sort of agree with Scott. *ducks*

    That post annoyed me. I mean, I get that some people don’t like some words, and that’s valid… but at the same time: it’s a very basic word that means … what it means, and I don’t see why it’s pretentious or smug. Get over it.

    But if I were affianced, in addition to fiance, I’d probably call that person either my A) “betrothed” cuz it’s archaic and silly, B) “partner,” or C) their name, because, isn’t that why we have names?

    I did like the commenter’s suggestion of “ex-girlfriend.”

  • blackink: congrats!!

  • shani, my fellow NoCalian, kudos. You get it.

    This post is just further evidence of the dilemma facing the young adult contrarian. They are now at a point where their lives are beginning to contradict the ideals they once held. In an effort to reconcile their youthful idealism with their burgeoning adulthood they wax faux-intelligent about the connotations of long-used words like fiance. If they cannot find an appropriate way to use the term ironically then they must find a suitable substitute to use ironically.

    This “Whatever-The-Fuck-You-Wanna-Call-‘Em” generation is scrambling to make a name for themselves. So far it seems all they are good for is mindless quibbling about inconsequential issues. Look, you came out of an era that packaged, branded, and sold you your identity but hey, you guys got two wars to those Peace/Love folks’ one! You also got a gay marriage movement and a black president that YOU voted for in record numbers! So at the end of the day, things are looking good for you. Just chill with the ironic self-awareness for a bit.

  • Ralph/shani: Or maybe…they find the word legitimately annoying? part of actively sorting through the way we receive and disseminate information is taking issue with stuff a lot of other people find pretty innocuous.

    It seems pretty unfair to reduce Tracie’s stance to reflexive contrarianism.

  • quadmoniker

    Everyone could use the Spanish word for more-serious-partner-likely-to-be-my-future-spouse: novio or novia. Hippie liberals like Spanish better than French anyway, right?

  • I laughed out loud at that quad! Good stuff.

    I really liked the ex-fiance comment on the original blog. I’ve heard that so much. It sounds ridiculous, but it says everything you need to know in a pithy manner.

  • Before we were married, Chef would call me his ball and chain and I would call him my future ex-husband. This didn’t go over well at family gatherings.

  • @shani-o: Much thanks. Appreciate the good word.

    @g.d.: You’re dead-on. That’s pretty much why I qualified the suggestion even as I made it. “My rib” excludes too many people from the club: women, gays and lesbians, non-Christians. Actually, Scott made me feel a little silly for even being uncomfortable in the first place.

    Though, I must say, I like the idea of novia. I’ll try it out for a week or so. See how it feels.

  • aisha

    I can’t really explain why I don’t like the word fiance. I guess it’s the emphasis on the temporary state. It’s also the fact that I’ve seen people get all smug if you forget to use the correct term. It’s the same ones who wave their rings all in your face and discuss how many carats and what cut one should get. It’s the same ones who want to have couples only events. Maybe I’m just a hater.

  • All this talk about marriage makes me want to get a divorce…:)

  • i don’t understand this at all. english is something like 3/5 french (or is it 2/3? the point is lots!) so we use french words on a daily basis. (england was once ‘french’.)

    so fiancée / fiancé is just yet another french word in english. is it that we have retained (an approximation of) the french pronunciation? but it is not the only word in which we do that.

    as several people have pointed out, the word means what it says – two people betrothed to get married. if that is the case, what is the problem?

  • verdeluz

    I’m with Ralph and Shani on this one. It’s kind of like the ‘am I an elitist’ post. There’s nothing inherently smug about the word ‘fiance’- Scott’s wording may not have been eloquent, but I think what he was trying to say was that it’s a simple descriptor that allows a social relationship (‘the person I will be married to some time in the near future’) to be easily communicated. If it comes across as smug, chances are it’s the speaker’s smugness talking (or the listener’s hypersensitivity). There’s nothing inherently douchey about the words ‘my agent’ or ‘my life coach’* either, and yet..

    That said, I get being skittish about it. Nobody wants to be unfairly lumped in with a bunch of smug bastards, and it’s also fair to just not want to broadcast details about your relationship.

    QM: =\

    *okay, maybe with that one there is

  • rakia

    Is this original post serious? Is the word that big a deal? I agree with Ralph on that “dilemma facing the young adult contrarian” tip. Get a grip.