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Word Wisdom: Espouse

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser
Word Wisdom

Heartland Hospice Moose Jaw was one of 5 organizations nominated for the 2022 Moose Jaw & District Chamber of Commerce Group of the Year. If you are unfamiliar with them, the association is dedicated to establishing and expanding hospice care in the city to ease the final days of people in palliative care. I espouse this group and their work.

To espouse something is to take up and support a cause. And yes, there is a connect to the word “spouse.” The English word derives from the Latin verb spondere, meaning to promise. Sponsors promise to help a person or a cause. The concept naturally developed into the social realm of relationships. The Latin sponsare means to betroth, a promise to marry. Marriage  was the basis for family structure, a promise to care for one another in all aspects of life, including bringing forth children for the next generation of humanity, and caring for them. A betrothed man was called a sponsus because a promise was made. A sponsa was an engaged woman.

The use of espouse, an adaptation of the Latin words, began in the 15th century as a verb meaning to marry. Then espouse was used as a noun to imply a newly married person or simply a husband or wife. Eventually the word was shortened to spouse.

Espouse evolved to include other long-term commitments, such as support for a principle or a cause. This developed the idea that strong support for a group or belief system is that you have chosen to wed yourself to it, making promises of sponsorship.

Espouse describes the actions of a person who lives according to specific beliefs. You may espouse environmentalism and as a result walk or use public transportation whenever possible instead of taking a car. Some teachers espouse the benefits to be gained from educational software, while others remain unconvinced of having it assume a primary place in the school system.

There are some subtle differences in synonyms used for espouse. When you accept something, sometimes created by another, and practice or use it, you adopt it. An organization may adopt new policies. To embrace a belief is to readily accept it. People embrace customs and religious tenets. Giving support to, and often against opposition, is to uphold. To champion a cause is to act as a militant supporter.

Espouse implies a close attachment to and a sharing of its purposes. I personally have utilized the work of Heartland Hospice when visiting the dying at Pioneer Lodge and experienced the benefits of a dedicated space for palliative people. Many families have greatly appreciated the fruits of this organization.

It is beneficial for our community when residents espouse community groups and faith-based organizations. The Canadian government has recognized the benefits of such personal espousal and rewards those individuals with tax breaks, and the groups with charitable status. Many Canadians donate their time, money, energy, and skills to a cause that they espouse. There are more than 150,000 charities and non-profits that support our communities’ social fabric and quality of life. Over $10 billion dollars are donated each year by Canadians. There is so much more to espousing a charitable organization than a tax break. There are great benefits to the cause or organization, plus personal gains with involvement. What groups or organizations will you espouse this year?

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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