The Grammarphobia Blog

Civil unioned? Civilly united? Civil whatever?

Q: I work for the Division on Civil Rights in New Jersey, where we have civil unions, and I would appreciate any advice on this question: Do same sex couples who enter into civil unions become civil unioned, civil unionized, civilly united, or something else?

A: I couldn’t find anything helpful in my usual language references, but I mentioned your question on the air during an appearance on WNYC and a few listeners wrote to me afterward. Let me share their responses.

One listener: “As to constructing a past-tense verb form of ‘civil union,’ I propose ‘civilly united.’ This is based solely on the maxim, ‘say what sounds right,’ which my mother always used as an answer to my more inane grammatical queries.”

Second listener: “People who enter into civil unions should be referred to as joined or civilly joined.”

And a final response, from a listener in France: “Regarding civil union, the equivalent here is ‘pacte civil de solidarité,’ normally referred to by the acronym ‘PaCS.’ ‘Un PaCs’ is the contract, and from this come several derived words such as ‘se pacser’ (to be united in a civil union) or ‘des pacsés’ (people united in civil union). While the PaCS was aimed at same-sex couples, currently 88% of pacsés are of opposite sexes.”

Interesting, no? I hope you may find something helpful here.

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