Dear Miss Manners: I have begun to notice that the definition of the word “fiance” is changing, and in my opinion, not for the better.
. . . I thought perhaps you would have a comment.
Gentle Reader: Well, yes, Miss Manners has noticed that in newspaper articles, the unmarried father of five children who is on amicable terms with the mother is identified as her fiance. But if he beats her up, he is called her boyfriend.
The rest is below the fold.
Actually, long engagements were not uncommon in the past. But then the delay would be to accumulate enough money to support a household; now it is to accumulate enough money to support a week of wedding festivities. And then, the imminent arrival of a child would speed the wedding day; now it would delay it, so that pregnancy would not interfere with the bride’s figure or zest for partying.
Or, as you point out, there may be no relationship between declaring being affianced and intending to be married. Still, when children are involved, Miss Manners finds it more stabilizing to use a word at least suggesting that degree of commitment. There is always the possibility that some time after the arrival of that fifth child, the couple will decide that they are sufficiently compatible to risk more of a commitment.
Please note that Miss Manners is commenting on heterosexual situations. Traditional marriage is in a state of decline. Note to Marilyn Moosegrave and the other wingnuts: it’s got nothing to do with gay people loving each other. D’uh.