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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

What Is A Discordant Couple? An Etymological Map!

July 9th, 2013 by Sondra



The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines discordant as follows: “adjective 1. a : being at variance : disagreement, b : quarrelsome; 2. : relating to discord.”

According to A Way With Wordsa public radio program about language examined through history, culture, and family, the definition of a discordant couple is:

“a pair of long-term sexual partners, such as a married couple,
in which one is infected with a sexually transmitted disease
and the other is not.”

Based on word history and lexicography, the use of the word “discordant” to define “couple,” in this case, may be a confusing descriptor for a romantic or sexual partnership in which one person in the couple–not both–has a chronic sexually transmitted infection (STD), such as HIV, HSV-1 or HSV 2 (oral or genital herpes respectively). Indeed, the adjective appears to describe a relational argument that, by definition, is based on opinion or a point supported by facts. However, if a person has a chronic STD, this then is not a point of argument or a matter of “being at variance”–it is, in fact, a fact. A physical one that requires, respect, understanding and care.

What if, to be a wordsmith for a moment, “a pair of long-term sexual partners, such as a married couple, in which one is infected with a sexually transmitted disease and the other is not” was redefined as a harmonized couple, rather than a discordant couple?

Harmonize: “intransitive verb 1. : to play or sing in harmony; 2. : to be in harmony; transitive verb 1. : to bring in consonance or accord2. : to provide or accompany with harmony.”

Since the collective and scientific term is “discordant couple,” for the sake of clarity and consistency, The Naked Truth will launch a series in July about Discordant Couples that will cover facts about living with a partner who has a chronic STD, about being a partner living with a chronic STD, how to minimize and reduce transmission between partners, and to overall raise awareness for discordant couples and debunk any stigma they, or their partners, may carry.

For the sake of linguistics, on the other hand, the opposite of the word “discord” is actually “accord,” which means mutual understanding, or to give consent.

I.e.: The harmonized (discordant) HSV-2 positive couple walked into Planned Parenthood to learn more about their safer sex options and how to reduce rates of infection from one partner to the other.

Etymologically yours–


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