Mistress Meaning as AP Mocked For Telling People Not to Use Word

The Associated Press is being mocked after attempting to curtail use of the word "mistress."

AP, widely used as a style guide for media outlets and journalists, defended the move on Twitter, after sharing guidance over the term.

The now-viral tweet said: "Don't use the term mistress for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion, friend or lover on first reference and provide additional details later."

In a bid to defend the move AP followed up with another post, clarifying the advice was first issued last year.

They said: "We added this guidance last year; it's not new. We understand it's problematic that the alternative terms fall short. But we felt that was better than having one word for a woman and none for the man, and implying that the woman was solely responsible for the affair."

Don't use the term mistress for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else. Instead, use an alternative like companion, friend or lover on first reference and provide additional details later.

— APStylebook (@APStylebook) April 13, 2021

Merriam-Webster gives six definitions for the word "mistress," with one description stating: "A woman other than his wife with whom a married man has a continuing sexual relationship."

Other definitions include a woman with authority, a woman in charge of an establishment, a female teacher, something personified as female that rules, an archaic prefix to the name of an unmarried woman and a professional dominatrix.

Despite sharing their reasoning behind the language shift, people criticised the decision while offering up sarcastic alternatives.

Jack Posobiec suggested: "Concubine? Consort? Courtesan?"

Elections Have Consequences asked: "Why are you telling people not to use the correct term to describe a specific relationship? That's...weird."

Portia J&J McGonagal tweeted: "Both people involved are adulterers. Unless it's an open marriage where both partners have agreed to the arrangement, it's adultery. And I'm going to call both parties what they are. Liars, cheaters, and cowards. Why are you sanitizing it?"

Agreeing, Jet Cupcake posted: "Are we supposed to pretend that people having affairs aren't having affairs now?"

Rachel sarcastically wrote: "Don't call them murderers, use another term like "person who was in a room with two alive people and then became the only alive person in there" and provide details later."

And Sunni Labeouf joked: "Did the person who wrote this just get caught with his mistress?"

Although ANAIS pointed out: "Mistress includes the assumption of cheating, which isn't always accurate. It's also perjorative towards the woman, when (if cheating) the man is more or completely at fault for."

Stock image of a man and awoman
Stock image of a man and woman in a red dress. Associated Press has come under fire for curtailing use of the word 'mistress'. monstArrr_/Getty Images