YGirl, great point.
I think there are two things going on here - one is the way that people describe their own relationships and self-identify, the other is how we as a community (if such a thing really exists, even, and I'm beginning to wonder...) talks about itself internally and externally.
I don't think there has been one time where I have just referred to myself as poly and not qualified it in some way to describe how I/we do it. Even within the generally-accepted use of the word there is a huge variation in practices, and when describing ones own relationships, it is necessary.
But I think the broader issue is whether the poly community at large should or shouldn't have a set of consistent terminology with which it can describe itself (what it is and what it isn't) and by which it can be known. I think that this is the major point of difference that I have seen in the discussions. It came to a head recently when a group of friends of mine and I were trying to start up a local poly community and made an attempt to set the charter by consensus, rather that dictatorially (the way it is usually done) - the major disagreement was the definition of what community the forum should serve - i.e. the definition of "polyamory".
Some would like the term to be used and applied however each individual wishes, believing that by trying to tie down the term you limit its use, and create an "in-crowd" and an "outsider" crowd, and that this is inherently wrong.
Some others would like to have the terminology be generally agreed-upon within the community so that the term actually means something consistent.
I tend to fall into the latter group, as I'm sure my posts show - others fall as they may. I believe that by obfuscating the term we do the poly lifestyle a disservice by increasing confusion amongst others, rather than dispelling it. The world we live in, like it or not, runs on labels and if the idea of poly is going to get some acceptance I really do believe that we need a commonly-agreed language by which to describe the community.
However, I don't believe that there is a universal "right way" or a "wrong way" to do this, and I very much respect other's opinions on this - I just think that each way has its consequences in terms of what polyamory ends up being and the speed and fashion that it gets accepted by our systems of laws and society.
Please check out The Birdcage - an open, friendly Polyamory forum for all parts of New York State
"Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf." - Native American Proverb