I went to a party a few days ago. Two of my friends have these lavish gatherings every 6 to 12 months. Sometimes it’s celebrating a specific event. Sometimes it’s for the hell of it.
This time, as they revealed in a speech before dinner, it was for a specific and rather special event. After years of living together and then a civil partnership, they had got married.
When they turned up at the town hall at the arranged time, they told us, they were greeted with a strange bit of terminology. The official said to them: “Are you here for the conversion?”
It was his word for moving from civil partnership to marriage. Was it one individual’s quirky vocab? Seemingly not. I googled it and, sure enough, the official word is conversion.
Now, round my way, conversion is a word more associated with lofts than lovers. For others, it’s pounds to kilos or gas to electric. For followers of league and union, it’s what you try after a try. Or for those of religious persuasion, it’s Saint Paul seeing the Damascene light.
But for my friends, conversion had different connotations. As one of them explained: “We thought it was a last ditch attempt to switch us to heterosexuality.”
It’s great they saw the funny side and shared the joke. However, in the context of finally being able to marry the person you love in the way that most of society has done for centuries, is “conversion” the best the official committee could come up with? Isn’t there a more joyful, charming word than “conversion” that would encapsulate the state of love and marriage? Did the committee even try too hard?
That’s why, if you’re ever on the Official Committee for Naming, and you get stuck with a flat “conversion”, you could try one of two things: i) Send your naming conundrum to the Department of Words; or ii) Do what they did in the Town Planning Department of Leeds City Council. Don’t take it too seriously. (See their work below.)