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The history of same-sex marriage in the USA


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With the upcoming oral arguments before the Supreme Court later this month, the SCOTUSBlog has been posting a number of article. They've just posted part I of an interesting article on the history of same-sex marriage in the USA.

The writer shows an obvious political bias, but despite that it's easy to read and fascinating as to the evolution of the social debate over the last few decades.

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Very interesting article.

Incidentally, it reminds me how different US English is from UK English. There are many words in reasonably common use in the States that we simply don't use (many of us don't know them) here.

Gubernatorial is a lovely word, but we don't use it.

Caucus isn't in common use, unless you count the caucus race from Alice in Wonderland.

There are loads more, of course, but my brain isn't working well enough to recall them at the moment (in the US 'at the moment' would be 'just now').

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We have exactly the same feeling reading stories set in England, Bruin. I've just read Puppy for Sale, what chapters have been posted of it, and came across all sorts of Englishisms. Just one: he kept speaking of the cistern in the bathroom. We'd call it a toilet tank.

But I love reading those usages. So different from ours, and delightful.

He did do one thing I haven't seen before, and maybe someone can explain. We use the terms front and back yards. You guys use the term garden. Yet, once, he did use the word yard, saying the chickens were kept a the bottom of the yard (another difference; we say at the back of the yard.) Do you actually have the word 'yard' in your vocabulary in that context, and is it interchangeable with garden?


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Yes when I read front yard or back yard I immediately know I'm reading a US author. We do use the word yard, but it has connotations different than garden. You might say 'the house didn't really have a garden at the back, just a sort of yard'.

The Brits are characteristically proud of their gardens, and those lucky enough to afford a house with some land around it will certainly fence or hedge it, and landscape it, usually mostly lawn which will be mown to perfection every week through the summer. Gardens will almost always also incorporate flower beds and, less usually these days, a plot for growing vegetables.

In the UK a yard is not a garden, it's an outdoor space which may or may not have vegetation, and is likely to be untidy, used for storage rather than enjoyment. When you read of a yard you might imagine it to be littered with motor parts going rusty among brambles and nettles.

The most general use of the word here is in conjunction with farm: farmyard. This is the area adjacent to a farmhouse, which may have tractors and other farm implements parked in it, it may also abut a pigsty, chicken coop, milking parlour or other livestock areas. It will be paved or concrete and will certainly not be in any way decorative. The farm will have a separate walled garden, with lawn and rosebushes, where the family may take afternoon tea on sunny afternoons, or the children may play safely away from the animals or machinery.

Of course the language is evolving and you do sometimes hear the word used in its US sense, but being old school I tend to draw conclusions when someone describes the area behind their house as 'the back yard'. I tend to think that in their estimation it's untidy, unkempt, and they're anxious that I don't think they're proud of it because it doesn't warrant pride. It's a dismissive way of describing your back garden.

And yes, we don't have fairies at the back of the yard, we have fairies at the bottom of the garden!

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He did do one thing I haven't seen before, and maybe someone can explain. We use the terms front and back yards. You guys use the term garden. Yet, once, he did use the word yard, saying the chickens were kept a the bottom of the yard (another difference; we say at the back of the yard.) Do you actually have the word 'yard' in your vocabulary in that context, and is it interchangeable with garden?

Yard in British English, when used within the concept of an area of land rather than a measurement, means an enclosed uncultivated space adjacent to or within the precincts of a property. Classical examples are the tiltyard, such as the one at Hampton Court or the farmyard. In 19th and early 20th century it was common for houses to be built with a paved enclosed or semi-enclosed paved area immediately to the rear of a property, with a garden or cultivated land beyond it.

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Interesting :smile: Australians tend to use frontyard/backyard the same as the Americans, even though there are a lot of other phrases that we derive from the British. Often, we use the equivalent phrases from both nations interchangeably (both "at the moment" and "just now" could be used by an Australia without a strong preference for one over the other).

Anyway, part II of the commentary is now online. It completes the story up to the current point, and then looks at the lessons from similar cases in the past:


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Isn't language wonderful!?

Trunk - elephants have trunks, swimmers wear trunks, and luggage used to be carried in trunks by porters. Nowadays it's carried in smaller containers called suitcases - and you carry them yourself, so buy ones with wheels...

In the early years of the motor car, the luggage compartment at the back was quite literally a trunk, just like the ones carried by railway porters, but bolted to the vehicle, and often fastened with big leather straps. So naturally the Brits called them boots... !?!?

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OK, since we're going on about language here, perhaps someone can help me with a translation from English to, well, whatever it is we speak here.

I don't get a lot of mail about my writing, but what I do get comes from all over the world. An English boy is currently writing me, one who is in a very exclusive prep school there. Some of what he writes me about is arcane, at least to me. I didn't understand the last paragraph of his latest message at all. So, can someone help?

Here is it: Well. I have to go. The divs are walking around. TTYL


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From the context, "divs" are clearly people in authority or influence. My best guess is that it's something to do with the word "divisional", a hierarchical term, though it's equally possible it's some sort of derogative term with a much cruder root meaning.


It might be derived from UK prison slang and means someone who displays stupidity: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=div

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Try this link if it works


I thought , like Graeme, that it might have something to do with 'division' and authority eg a teacher or prefect.

But the alternative of div as someone of low intelligence would fit if referring to those of his peers he does not like.

TTYL = talk to you later - I had to look that up too!

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Another thought- what if it is a convent school or similar, div could then be short for divine as a term specific to the school.

The double meaning with the mainstream definition, stupid person, would appeal to the pupils' sense of humour/absurd.

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