Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Oh no ... "serial polygamy"

A question crossed the SWET list today: what is "serial polygamy"? This term caused a major snyaptic traffic jam in parts of my brain that I prefer to use for weightier matters, like deciding whether to take a nap or waste time searching the Web for Neologisms from Hell.

Having never heard of serial polygamy before, I checked Wikipedia. (Yes, this was after my nap.) There I was told that some conservative Christians prefer this term to "serial monogamy". I think their reasoning, such as it is, might go something like this:

- Polygamy is bad.

- Serial anything is worse. ("Serial killer", "serial rapist", etc.)

- Monogamy is good. So using that word in "serial monogamy" can only
confuse people. It makes holy matrimony sound like it can be both good and very, very bad. (Gosh, nobody who's actually been married would ever think that, would they?)

- ERGO: be sure to call it "serial polygamy" so that people are in no doubt whatsoever that divorce and remarriage are bad.

- BONUS: "Serial polygamy" is kinda cool because it sounds worse than just "polygamy". We don't want to make plain ol' polygamy sound too bad, and adding "serial polygamy" provides a backstop. Plain Ol' Polygamy was, after all, practiced by some Old Testament prophets who channeled the Word of God. Yeah, Solomon had a lot of wives, but there's a critical distinction here: can you find in Scripture any indication that he divorced even one of these wives? Didn't think so. He was a polygamist, but at least he wasn't (*shudder*) a serial polygamist.

"Serial monogamy" -- avaunt, you demons of cognitive dissonance! Back to choral harmony!

Google turned up several supposed Children's Encyclopedia entries for "serial polygamy", all claiming heritage from Wikipedia, when in fact there is no current Wikipedia entry for the term. I gather that, for one brief, shining, highly moralistic moment, there was some such entry, before the Demons from Cognitive Dissonance descended upon it, shrieking "WTF?!", as is their wont, those profane minions of Satan.

UPDATE: Anthony Burgess, who cannot be accused of innocence with regard to the English language, used the term somewhat seriously, but still tongue in cheek. He said that the American pattern of divorce and remarriage would seem to Europeans a kind of "serial polygamy". From the context, however, I think his remarks would invite great scorn from conservative Christians.

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