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What's in a Name? Polyamorous Jargon

In doing online education, I've spent a lot of time talking with people about "all those polyamorous words" and whether we need them and what we need them for. In my everyday life I know people who absolutely reject all forms of polyamorous jargon (right down to someone who won't use "metamour" for their metas because they think it's an ugly sounding word and they think they're friends or they're nothing and they can use their name) and people who gleefully jump into all of it, reading every bit of material they can get their hands on and determining what shape they think their polycule is in (happily calling it a polycule and deciding if it's kitchen table, garden party, or otherwise at the same time) within a couple weeks of starting a relationship with a polyamorous person.

While I don't think there's a best place for folks to land regarding all of this, I do remain in my historical fence-sitting position of "the extremes are much harder to do well." If you outright refuse all polyam jargon, first, you probably haven't survived my blog long, as I use it all liberally - and second it makes it MUCH harder to build community because folks then don't have shared points of reference for if they relationship similarly, if they're on the same wavelength as you are philosophically, or if they're trying to do something that's only connected to your deal by virtue of also having multiple partners. But going all-in on jargon can make what you're saying entirely incomprehensible to people outside the in-group, and some people think that same sense I just referenced of whether people have anything in common with you beyond *just* "do you have multiple partners" is being unnecessarily divisive in a small community.

So, why then do I learn all the words as people coin them and try to use them precisely when I can, if I don't think you all should always? Because having the option can be useful - because labels can help us name feelings, situations, and things about ourselves - and because I'm a nerd for words, to be honest. There are some terms where I don't love the word and don't use it in my day-to-day life, but I know what they are and use them on the blog when they come up, for these reasons. (Ambiamorous and lap-sitting polyamory come to mind. I think they sound funny.) But regardless of whether I like them, someone else will find them perfect for their orientation or their polycule dynamic, current or desired, and so I use them so that folks have the words available. Sometimes having a word makes us more aware that the thing we want is a real option, and we aren't "wrong" for wanting it, and for that alone, the extra verbiage is worth it.

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but "that pretty flower" won't always get us a rose, so isn't it nice that it has a name? That's the point of all the jargon - and we can choose when it's worth it to us to use it.


If you're going to be at Tethered Together in Stamford, CT next weekend, come see my classes on Friday and Saturday, and join me for the Polyam Mixer Saturday evening! If not, see the Events page for future classes and events where you can find me. Season 5 of the podcast is coming up in a couple weeks, catch up on past episodes here; and follow me on social media: @readyforpolyamory on Tiktok and Instagram and @lauracb88 on Twitter. You can find my book, all the links above and more at my linktree here.

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