First, I like the mixed Greek/Latin mash-up origins of the word. It reminds me of what I love about English - the utter willingness to make shit up and to mug other languages for words. As said by James D. Nicoll, "...We donít just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.Ē
I'm also intrigued by Rory's point about non-hierarchal types using primary and secondary and the mistaken ideas that can convey to others. I assumed, wrongly perhaps, that folks who do not think of relationships hierarchally just don't use primary and secondary. That the divide, if any, was between people comfortable using terms that imply, if not outright state, hierarchial relationships and people who did not want to rank their relationships and wanted their language to reflect that. It is difficult to find words that convey meaning without also some sort of hierarchy. This applies to terms that convey information about gender, sex, race - everywhere there are hierachies. Feminism, anti-class privilege, all sorts of movements have struggled with this point. I have not figured out what I think about Rory's point fully but suspect I will mull it over for some time.
Originally Posted by rory
I think that primary and secondary imply hierarchy. It may be the connotations of the words themselves or it may be a cultural thing, whatever. It's there, if not for all, for many. That's why I don't think it's wise to use those words unless one wants to convey the message of the relationships being more and less important. Even if that's not the meaning the person using the words personally attaches to the words that is the meaning they convey to many.
I think it is problematic that many people in non-hierarchical relationships use primary and secondary labels. This is particularly when thinking about polyamory in relation to mainstream monogamous culture. I am sure that to many monogamists the terms primary and secondary refer to hierarchy (as they seem to do for many poly people, while not for many others, based on this discussion). Therefore, hearing those terms to be commonly used by many poly people, even in non-hierarchical relationships, gives the picture that poly relationships are most often hierarchical. Of course, even a poly structure where there actually is a more and a less important relationship still challenges the mainstream monogamous culture. But using hierarchical language in polyamorous relationships, even in ones that are equally important, enforces the so common belief that people really can't love equally, i.e. one must love one more than the other or polyamory involves no Real Love at all.