Social Question

TogoldorMandar's avatar

What does everybody mean by s/o?

Asked by TogoldorMandar (539points) August 4th, 2010

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18 Answers

syz's avatar

Significant other (boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, spouse).

Austinlad's avatar

It’s a more P.C. way of referring to your main squeeze, since it removes the gender reference.

Jeruba's avatar

“Significant other” is a term with its origins in sociology. In common (not professional or scholarly) use it refers to the primary person in your life, in the sense of spouse or partner. “Other” means someone other than yourself, and “significant” says this person is important to you. For most people there’s just one person who has this role.

A few decades ago our society began acknowledging primary relationships other than that of husband and wife, and this term was available in the literature, so it crept into popular use.

jazmina88's avatar

yeah, what they said…...:):)

perspicacious's avatar

Significant other—isn’t it one of the most irritating terms you’ve ever heard?

Minute_And_A_Huff's avatar

@perspicacious Why would it be irritating?

woodcutter's avatar

since it is now legal in CA for gays to marry, hopefully we will stop hearing that term. And also partner, I always disliked that term also.

Minute_And_A_Huff's avatar

@woodcutter What would you rather use?

woodcutter's avatar

@Minute_And_A_Huff ;Oh i don’t know, perhaps girlfriend / lady friend ,wife, husband, my man/lady, woman, possibly others i can’t think of right now. I’m falling asleep.

DominicX's avatar

The problem is with asking a question. It’s easier to say “What would you do if your SO did…” instead of “What would you do if your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner(s)/spouse did…?” Significant other includes everything. Any one of those other terms excludes something. It’s not about “PC”. It makes it easier to ask a question or refer to people in relationships in general.

If I’m asking a question about relationships, I wouldn’t just ask for boyfriend, even if that’s what I have, because I’d be interested to hear from people with girlfriends or wives, etc.

perspicacious's avatar

@Minute_And_A_Huff —- It just is!! I cringe every time I hear or read it. There’s a whole group of us who feel that way.

downtide's avatar

I would rather use “s/o” or “partner” than use a term that defines the gender of the other person.

ucme's avatar

Sexual Orifice? Yeah i’m 42% sure that’s right…..but you never know I may be mistaken.

Austinlad's avatar

I’m with those who dislike the term. It sounds cold, utilitarian, stripped of emotion. And I dislike writing it even more than saying it. That said, I do use it when referring to a relationship whose nature I’m unsure about, especially in the workplace.

Jeruba's avatar

I dislike it too, for its arm’s-length academic treatment of personal relations. In fact, it triggers my gag reflex, so I never use it myself. I can see why sociology and psychology need such a term (and they do define it differently from the popular meaning), but it sounds like clinical jargon to me, just like referring to a first-time mother as a “primipara” and a baby as a “neonate.”

“Want to see my neonate?”
“Your neonate is adorable.”
“What did she name her neonate?”
“How do you do? I’m a primipara, this is my significant other, and here’s our neonate.”

However, I know many people who use “significant other” to refer to their, um, (?) their common-law spouses, and not just for gender neutrality. In fact, I most frequently hear it in a heterosexual context. After 30 years together, the couple might feel a little old to say “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” and “partner” sounds a little . . . I don’t know, coldly pragmatic perhaps (“the person I do it with”) . . . and everybody knows they’re never, ever going to get married. I don’t know what I would say in their place, except maybe just—“This is Sam.”

Minute_And_A_Huff's avatar

@Jeruba I like the term “companion” for when you’re past the boyfriend/girlfriend stage (or are simply older) but not married. After my mother divorced from my father after 25+ years of marriage, she found a wonderful man and they’ve been together for several years now. They’re way past the “dating” phase in any kind of sitcom sense, but neither want to get married again, so that’s what I call him – her companion. That, and “gentleman friend”, “male caller” and, of course, “lovah” for when I’m teasing her.

Jeruba's avatar

“Companion” isn’t bad. In your mother’s place I might choose it too. It startled me a little the first time I heard it used that way, but I could learn to live with it. It isn’t cloying like <shudder> “hubby.”

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