Forget the pandemic for a few minutes. Let’s talk about love.

There are too many words in the English language. Just get divorced or separated, get a new partner (that’s the easy part) and then find the right word to describe him or her… (that’s the hard part).

There is a smorgasbord of terms to choose from; partner, lover, mate, sweetheart, boyfriend, girlfriend, lady friend, man friend, companion, lover, date, significant other, special friend, life partner, bed friend, toyboy, cougar…?

If you like country and western music you could always say my man or my woman, but that’s better said in a denim suit or skirt with a guitar while riding a bull with large horns.


Lover Man – Billie Holiday


If you are American, you might know the term POSSLQperson of opposite sex sharing living quarters – pronounced possel-quoo which is used by the US Census Bureau. It lacks a bit of warmth and does sound quite strange in French.

Another glass of wine, my sweet POSSLQ?

Girlfriend/boyfriend sound like you are still wearing braces (appareil orthodontique) and waiting for the onset of puberty.


Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.


Date is an old-fashioned term for a potential relationship, salty popcorn and a Disney movie.

Significant other is about as romantic as POSSLQ.

Toy boy and cougar are terms best used by your cynical friends and your jealous friends.


Do you love me? – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds


Smooch mate sounds like you are going out with a shaggy dog with a big wet tongue.

Mate can be easily confused with two Australian males drinking beer, which is not particularly romantic, and an activity which giraffes and other animals do on page 76 of your Year 12 Biology book.

Paramour has a touch of Euro glamour, but in English sounds like a paratrooper in military boots, with a waxed moustache, has just parachuted into your bedroom.


Companion lacks a sense of commitment. Dogs make good companions.


Suitor sounds like you are in a long supermarket queue clutching your toilet paper and the cashier’s name is Helen of Troy.

Electric blanket, hot water bottle and bed warmer are very utilitarian terms, but best used by salespeople in department stores on the coldest day of the year.


Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor


Life partner sounds contractual and begs the questions: Where do I sign? Darling, have you put a deposit down on a double plot in the cemetery?

Mistress and gigolo are best used in your fantasies.

Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.

Companion lacks a sense of commitment. Dogs make good companions.

Bed-friend or f*ck buddy have grindered themselves into common speech, but the relationship is clearly mattress-dominated and there is little or no attachment, except for the pink fluffy handcuffs.


Partner is useful, but some people may think you own a law firm.


Lover is much more intense but can range in meaning from a turbo-charged bed-friend to someone you really care about and you’d be willing to sacrifice your life for them… which might be a bit premature on the second or third date.

Special friend sounds like you are waiting for an upgrade, maybe to boyfriend or girlfriend status, but you aren’t there yet. If you have been a special friend for more than a month, the chances of you getting an upgrade to lover are minimal.

Confused? The answer is easy.

Next time you have to introduce your better half (there’s another odd expression) simply say: This is Marie-Celeste or I would like to introduce you to William. Let the others wrestle with the terminology so you can concentrate on some serious loving.


I will Always Love You- Whitney Houston


Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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