Grammar

Dictionary Adds ‘Second Gentleman’ to Its Listings

Dreamstime

If you couldn’t guess what a ‘second gentleman’ might mean, you can now find the definition in the dictionary. Now that we have one, he helped spread the word about the addition!

For the first time in American history, the nation has a “second gentleman.”

That happened on Jan. 20 when former Sen. Kamala Harris became the nation’s first female vice president. Traditionally, the wife of the vice president has always been called the second lady.

But Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, couldn’t be called a second lady. So, with gender roles reversed in the vice presidency, gender roles needed to be reversed in the spouse title as well.

This week, Emhoff took to Twitter to share news from Merriam-Webster:

“Well, now it’s official,” he posted on Twitter.

He then made reference to his wife’s victory speech from the Saturday after Election Day. Harris spoke about the struggles of women through history that paved the way for her to ascend to the vice presidency.

“While I may be the first woman in this office,” Harris said, “I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Borrowing a phrase from that message, Emhoff wrote, “I might be the first, but I won’t be the last.”

I think that will be a safe bet.

From time to time, I mention the Associated Press Stylebook, which many newsrooms use as their official style guide. I mostly use it here as well, although I do make occasional exceptions. (But it’s not like the AP is going to send me a nasty memo.)

When it comes to titles like “second gentleman,” AP Style dictates that since it’s not an official title, it would not be capitalized. It feels strange to me to write first lady Dr. Jill Biden or second gentleman Douglas Emhoff. But I’ll get used to it.

In any case, congratulations to the second gentleman. And one day, I’m sure I’ll be congratulating a first gentleman!

2 Comments

  1. I had to laugh when I heard a reporter from one of the networks repeatedly refer to Emhoff as “the second husband.” 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.