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Consort

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Consort

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:44 pm

• consort •


Pronunciation: kahn-sort • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A husband or wife, a spouse; used in conjunction with some titles, such as Queen Consort "the wife of a king", King Consort "the husband of a queen". Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, was known as the Prince Consort. 2. A company of musicians specializing in the performance of music from an earlier era, as a baroque music consort. 3. A ship sailing in company with another.

Notes: The verb from today's word, consort "keep company with, to associate with", in some US circles has been limited to shady associations, especially in the phrase, "to consort with known criminals". This has led those who do not read Dr. Goodword regularly to wrongly sense that the noun carries a pejorative connotation. It doesn't. If you have a spouse, you have a consort, regardless of the way he or she treats you or others.

In Play: The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 revealed slightly different attitudes toward today's Good Word in the UK and US. Should Charles become king, he will be the titular head of the Church of England, which looks askance at divorce, something both of the couple have experienced. So, after the wedding, Ms. Bowles agreed to abide by the modest title, HRH (Her Royal Highness) Duchess of Cornwall. Should Prince Charles become king, she is not to be promoted to the Queen Consort, as is traditional, but will rise only to the position of the Princess Consort—but without any implication of improper behavior. Of course, today divorce is bruited about in the UK.

Word History: Today's good word meant "colleague" in Middle English and the Old French from which it was cleverly snitched. It is based on the Latin preposition con "(together) with" + sors, sortis "fate", implying that a consort is someone you share your fate with, an interesting notion, indeed. The original PIE root is ser-/sor- "to line up". The e-variant is found in English sermon and series. How the meaning shifted from "line up" to "fate" is still up in the air, but the phonological match is pretty convincing. (We would like to thank Jeanne Barkley for not fearing to consort with us and sharing her curiosity about this word with our jolly band of lexophiles.)
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Re: Consort

Postby Slava » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:50 pm

Let us not forget that the verb form usually, or perhaps always, has the stress on the second syllable: con-SORT.
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Re: Consort

Postby David Myer » Sun Jul 27, 2014 7:17 pm

Of course! Why didn't I think of it before? For 25 years I have been living with a woman whom I have unsatisfactorily referred to as my partner. De facto is such a legalistic and silly term. Partner is better but can be confused with my business partner. Domestic partner is a mouthful. But why have I struggled so, when there is available a perfectly satisfactory word: consort. Henceforth I am Carolyn's consort.
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Re: Consort

Postby Slava » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:41 pm

Consort ties in nicely with this earlier post and article.
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Re: Consort

Postby David Myer » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:15 am

Enjoyed Slava's link to The Atlantic article in which consort is dismissed as pretentious. If its real meaning isn't actually exclusively for royalty, it is time it was re-introduced for the hoi-polloi. It will soon lose its regal connotation.

I must say though that I avoid introducing Carolyn as my anything. My relationship with her is of no relevance to anyone except me (and you lot, now I'm on the semantic debate). Also I don't like the possessive 'my' as in 'my wife', 'my girlfriend', etc. So at parties I introduce her as Carolyn - so she can be a person in her own right!

And talking of labelling relationships, am I the only person who cringes at the liberal use in the news of the rather ugly passive-voice term 'loved-ones'? It is not for the world at large to presume anything about the friends and family of people recently killed in an atrocity. None of our business. It seems to me to be a cheap way for media to whip up emotions and outrage.

Ok. Rant over.
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