Historically, people have often had a tendancy to "pick out a minority group" and "pick on the minority group." The classic case is of racial hatred, but it goes further back in time than that. People who were out of line with the Church were once "witches" and "heretics," and as such were fit to be burned at the stake. Or there were those strange heathen nations to the south, populating the Holy Lands with their infidels. Even today we're at war with those same Middle-Eastern lands, and much is said that is unflattering about their culture and religion. Our justification? that they produced terrorists and took American lives. And those terrorists' justification? that American culture and religion is foreign (and unholy/repugnant) to them. People are known to kill on the basis of other people being different.
So it is good to recognize what we have in common with each other. We have friends and families, and children we care about. We give and receive love.
Monogamy is a choice about sexual lifestyle, but it can often have a cultural/religious component as well. Non-monogamists are a "sexual minority," as are homosexuals (who are stringently forbidden to marry in the vast majority of the United States). Many right-wing monogamists are intently focused on what makes "them" different from "us;" it's like a type of fervor that keeps them going.
So it would be nice if people would think a little more about what we have in common. Homosexual people aren't so very different; they have feelings and heartaches just like "the rest of us" (as well as a desire to be responsible and do good). Likewise monogamists and non-monogamists are similar in that both groups "love many people." The sexual element of that love is sometimes different, but the caring, committed, intimate part is basically the same.
I would like to see an end to the bickering and non-acceptance people direct at each other over their differences. Truly I would. But I consider "changing words so as to mask those differences" to be going too far. It's not wrong for us to realize that some of us are monogamous; others aren't. That's the whole point in fact; our differences should be cause for celebration, and differing groups of people should be getting together to edify and enrich each other. So I don't mind using language that admits our differences.
There are monogamists, and non-monogamists. Among non-monogamous, there are some who are sexually non-monogamous but emotionally monogamous, a group that generally classifies itself as "swinging." And there are also non-monogamists who are sexually non-monogamous and romantically non-monogamous as well. Most of the people within that group call it "polyamory." This doesn't make monogamy, swinging, or polyamory right or wrong, nor does it make any group better than another. It just means that along with the things we have in common, there are also things that make us different, and that's okay.
The word "polyamory" certainly says something about love. But in most cases, it also says something about sex. It was coined with the intent of being both an emotional and a sexual word. Not all polyamorists are having sex; after all, polyamory is largely a state of mind. But that state of mind is usually understood to have something to do with sex (as well as something to do with love).
Re (from InfinitePossibility, Post #17):
"I've been carrying on thinking about this. And I suppose that for me, it's the fact that polyamoury is unusual (and often disapproved of) in much of society that makes me wonder if it might be useful to see it as more inclusive?"
The thing is, the romantic/sexual aspect of polyamory is what rubs so many monogamists the wrong way, and it's that romantic/sexual aspect that polyamorists generally would like to be accepted for. So if we go with the prescriptive definition of just letting polyamory refer to any kind of love, then, sure, the word "polyamory" will get more acceptance, but the nature of having multiple romantic/sexual partners will remain as unpopular as ever. Most people already understand the basic idea that "love is good," but applying that to multiple romantic/sexual relationships is a whole other ballgame. So we could win the war of getting the word "polyamory" accepted, but that wouldn't get us any closer to winning the war of getting the "peculiar" lovestyle accepted, and it's that latter war that we're trying to win.
Polyamory (the romantic/sexual kind) is relatively new in modern society. People haven't been exposed to it, nor taught to see it as a viable alternative to monogamy. Monogamy is very strongly reinforced as the only good/healthy relationship model (where sex and romance are concerned). It's this training in exclusive monogamous thinking that we're trying to get past, and I expect that to be a hurdle that will take many generations to surmount.
Changing the definition of "polyamory" to be the same as the definition of "love" would almost be like trying to hide the fact that we are all about romantic/sexual love. Of course we support other kinds of love too, but we call ourselves "polyamorous" because we do, in all honesty, differ from the "monogamous" lovestyle. If highlighting that was a problem, then I'd suggest we just call ourselves "loving" (since everyone already knows what that means) and call our lovestyle "love." But I don't think we get any closer to true acceptance if we just try to draw the world's attention away from who we uniquely are. The whole point is to be accepted for who we uniquely are, not for an out-of-focus version of ourselves.
I don't think the lack of acceptance is due to any popular misperception that we're opposed to friendship-love, or that we look down on friendship-love in any way. I don't think people generally see us like that. The acceptance problem, I think, stems from the fact that people consider it dirty/unhealthy to have more than one romantic/sexual partner. It's in the midst of that perception that the real war is being fought, and I don't expect that changing the definition of the word would relocate the war. It might delay the outcome, by confusing the issue, but it wouldn't change the outcome. "Polyamory" is just a word ... a symbol. The war is being fought over an ideology. Whatever word (or combination of words) is used to describe that ideology, the war remains the same.
It's nice to think that we could point out that love is good, that love is universal, and have that point lead people into accepting our multiple-romantic-partner lifestyles. Alas, the reality has not supported that simple ideal, and though it may sound cynical for me to say it, I don't expect that the reality will support that ideal ... not until the acceptance of multiple romantic/sexual relationships has already been obtained (on its own merits). Word manipulation (even the kind that sounds nice in theory) just isn't the way I think we will get there in practice. Sorry to have to say it.