THINKING ALOUD (LearnEnglish) FUNGIBLE WORDS: Social Partnership
Writer: Chén Róng
I have always been fascinated by fungible English words.
Some English words are fungible or interchangeable. Writers use them to suit particular occasions. Hence, “social partnership” has its origin in the early days of close voluntary co-operation between employees (represented by trade unions) and their employers. This partnership was founded in European industrial relations that include the state for tripartite negotiations in reaching amicable agreements. The term evolved into business use as found in marketing jargon: social partnership through co-branding with another business to raise the profile of both parties, for instances, have partners to donate prizes for mutual events.
The Interchangeability of the term does not stop there. In a social context, if someone labels someone as his/her “social partner”, it allows him/her a clever escape route from an otherwise embarrassing situation. When I was in my early twenties, I had few or probably no thoughts on people’s sexual orientation; particularly with those at the top the business hierarchy with befitting identity norms. There was this unforgettable occasion when my associates and I invited a gentleman from overseas - managing director-designate - for a sumptuous dinner party at Singapore’s Shangri-La Hotel. Night was wearing out, everyone sipping coffee in between small talks, an associate suddenly turned his attention on our guest and blurted out:: ‘Mr Haywood, what plans have you for a holiday with your wife over this long week-end’?
After a short pause, came a reply with nonchalant ease: “My partner and I have plans for a sojourn in Paris... just for a couple of days, you know”. Thereafter, throughout his conversation, he would refer to his constant companion as partner. I did not give much thought to it, not until much later that I came to learn about this big burly fellow’s sexual orientation; those were the days when marriages between same sexes were a taboo. A person of high standing in the corporate world might enter into a marriage of convenience just to show he was a well-respected family man; so I was told. Today, things have taken an about-turn. Anyone found in the company of a gay man – a constant companion - may no longer be looked upon as socially unacceptable.
Coming back to this big burly guest of ours: his ability to apply Interchangeability to an English word and comfortably weave his way out of social roadblocks in a nonchalant manner was indeed a great feat ! Of course he was not wrong in calling his mate a social partner because, if you look up the meaning of ‘social’ , the dictionary will define it as: “relating to, or characteristic of the experience, behaviour, and interaction of persons forming groups”
From then on, I was careful whenever I came across a partnership (or kind of) with people in the arena of ballroom dancing; something my wife (my only constant companion) and I often do together to enjoy our togetherness. The ballroom floor is one venue where assumptions should never be made of relationships. A partner does not necessarily have to be the spouse; he/she may be the spouse of a friend or someone else. It all sounds very complicated indeed. For this reason, the term ‘dance partner’ is often used if one happens to have bad memory for names; or not aware of the partners’ sexual orientation. Incidentally, sighting two ladies as dancing partners is something not of a surprise. Hence, social partnerships abound in the dance arena; the word ‘social’ has the dictionary meaning of: ‘relating to or having the purpose of promoting companionship, communal activities such as social clubs.
Every place has its accepted norms.There is this Chinese saying which I think may be apt for repeating here: Surprises come from people who have not seen much of worldly happenings; and for others who have seen aplenty, they see no surprises at all!
This article is just another piece of my thinking aloud!
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A Street Cat Named Bob
The phrase "social partners" can be given a more inclusive definition. I hope it finds its way to Merriam-Webster.
A dog is a man's best friend. It is true because of its faithfulness. Now more people are keeping cats for their companionship. One reason is space constraint on people living closer to one another in apartment blocks where dogs are less suitable. Nevertheless, whether your pet is a dog or a cat, they are great social partners for life.
You are not convinced? Go read the New York Times best-seller " A street Cat Named Bob" by James Bowen; or go to watch the movie with the same title. James and Bob partnership now have more than 500,000 Facebook followers! The story tells of a recovering drug addict who found himself with an unlikely companion that helped him to reshape his life under extreme difficult circumstances.
It is a true story.
TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Writer: Chén Róng
People of different cultures have their own rich tradition of people organizing themselves into interest groups. Ballroom Dancing is one such social group, and many community clubs work with dance instructors to give lessons at affordable fees; all is well except for one unintended outcome –partners in dance got too attached to one another. Oftentimes, they refer each other as ‘the social partner’ as they are found together at parties, dining places and other adult playgrounds; but they are both married to someone else – at least one of them. Close relationships between dance partners will only ruin otherwise happy families.
Mirko Gozzoli and Alessia Betti were undefeated world champions from 2004 to 2009, as professionals. Their dance partnership of 25 years produced prestigious dancing championships, including the highly acclaimed Blackpool Dance Festival. Their close professional relationship is kept separate from their private lives; absolutely no juicy stories for the press except for a clever swipe from Mirko: ‘yes, got stuck together’. He was referring to his patent leather shoes; their shiny surfaces got stuck together during a move in a dance competition. For a moment he could not unglue them. But it all ended well; he was not faulted by the judges who merely chuckled at the mishap.
Two years ago, the partners went their separate ways. Alessia retired and started a family with her husband and former dance partner, Angelo Madonia.
Mirko Gozzoli and Alessia Betti are true role models, and people should emulate them for both their dancing skills and high moral standards.