Words: Posslq n. (acronym)

WHATEVER happened to Posslq? This word originated, it is said, among Californian census-takers in the 1960s, as an acronym for "Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters". Pronounced "possle-queue", it filled a gap created when language had failed to keep up with social practice.

Combining an endearing hint of "possum" with a touch of mock officialese, it was an ideal word to introduce a live-in lover in a way that could not offend.

Yet, as Jean Aitchison claimed in her 1996 Reith Lectures, it is not posslq but "partner" that has become "the standard word for a life-companion".

How can we have abandoned the beautiful posslq for the mundane "partner"? I blame the gay lobby. Pssslq would have been too much to bear.