Significant other is such a terrible way to describe the most important person in your life: there's no flair, no romance, no poetry.

It takes six long syllables to say. As any linguist can tell you, the most important things get worn down to one or two syllable words; love and death, life, war, and bills.

Some people try to shorten it to S. O. That makes a merely ungainly phrase a downright ugly one and even harder to pronounce. Almost any shortening you try, however, comes out ugly:

"I'd like you to meet my sig, Jennifer." (Care for a smoke?)

"Harry is my other." (Other what? Personality?)

And for you CW fans, "Oh, I'm blue cause my nific left me and I don't know what to do."

The one thing significant other has going for it is its neutrality, sexual and otherwise. In these shrill times that may seem no small benefit; its use keeps you from attack on the one hand by militant feminists who resent any hint of condescension in their endearment and on the other from testosterone bruisers who will ambush you in a dark alley if your language seems too wimpy.

(Not that those bruisers would ever use the term. They prefer Anglo Saxon; babe is probably the most printable. I am not going to argue with them.)

All this begs the point. We need to stand up for human emotions and values, not run from them.

Significant other will just have to go. I would like to suggest in its place, squeeze. It is short, suggests affection without overwhelming the emotion shy with hearts, flowers or fluffy animals, and even has some poetic resonance. It may be used by either sex to refer to either sex.

I originally wrote this back 1996. Times have changed, as have my circumstances. The urban dictionary now has the first definition of squeeze as "not your most important relationship" and it is only the second definition that is your current boyfriend or girlfriend.

Not to mention I got married again, and I therefore have a single syllable reference for my significant other. I told my wife (or my spouse, if you are one of the aforementioned militant feminists) about this essay. She found it cute in much the same way she finds all my strange ideas cute.

I have started calling her my squeeze, though. We'll see how long it remains cute.