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I received an invitation for a session at my son's (John) school. The teacher had asked us to confirm our attendance for the event. I wrote the following

John's Dad and I will be attending the session.

(And signed my name below the note).

Is this usage correct? Does it in any way imply that we are not living together?

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For many people, it would surely imply that you are not living with him; otherwise you should have written "My husband and I ... " –  user19148 Oct 6 '12 at 10:16
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"John's Dad" is certainly incorrect. Should be "John's dad". –  RegDwigнt Oct 6 '12 at 10:26
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I don't see any implication one way or the other. John is the focus of attention, so it's perfectly normal to refer to his father (or dad, if you want to be informal). If you say to your naughty son "You just wait 'til your father gets home!", do you suppose the kid thinks his parents are about to split up? –  FumbleFingers Oct 6 '12 at 11:31
    
Do you happen to be in a place where there are cultural implications one way or the other? –  Kris Oct 6 '12 at 11:43
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3 Answers

While there's technically an ambiguity, I think that the general assumption made by the reader will be that you are John's mother and nothing more. Based on this single statement, I don't think that the reader is going to be led to believe that you are separated from your husband/John's father. It is also quite common—in PTA meetings and such—to refer to the husband (who is often absent) as <name>'s father.

(The ambiguity does not necessarily only indicate that you might not be living together with John's father. It could also imply that you are not his mother. Moreover, even if your family name matches that of John, it could well be that you are his sister, grandmother or aunt. I expect that the easiest way to avoid this situation altogether would be to reply with something along the lines of, "Yes, we will be attending this session", and "sign" underneath as, "Mr. and Mrs. Doe", if necessary.)

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-1 Sorry, the question was: 'Is this usage correct? Does it in any way imply that we are not living together?' –  Kris Oct 6 '12 at 12:00
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@Kris ... which is why my answer begins with "While there's technically an ambiguity" and later also explains what the ambiguities might be. As stated in my explanation, the statement in question does not necessarily (only) imply that the writer is not living with the child's father. –  coleopterist Oct 6 '12 at 12:02
    
I may be a bit slow today, but did you answer Yes? or was that a No? (Is this usage correct?) Incidentally, the OP just cannot edit her letter to the teacher anymore -- so alternatives are not part of the answer I'm afraid. :) –  Kris Oct 6 '12 at 12:12
    
Sorry, coleopterist, I'm with @Kris on this one. You don't seem to have answered the question here. –  user16269 Oct 6 '12 at 18:35
    
@Kris I've updated my answer to make my stance explicit. Please read. cc: David –  coleopterist Oct 7 '12 at 7:42
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You are right.

There's nothing to imply what is not patently stated in the sentence. Any interpretations drawn by the reader are not just subjective but unwarranted, in the context.

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No, they are warranted because of the unusual construction of the reply. The recipient is likely to wonder "Why has she said that instead of 'We'?" The sentence implies a certain distance between "John's dad" and "I". –  Andrew Leach Oct 6 '12 at 12:56
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@AndrewLeach I would have to disagree. In this particular communication between the mother and the teacher, what should matter to the teacher is that the man mentioned is John's dad, not that he is the mother's husband. Therefore, referring to "John's dad" is kind of the default, and referring to him in any other way would raise questions about why the person was referred to in that way. In particular, if the mother had written "my husband and I will attend the session", there is a stronger implication that the man in question is NOT John's dad. –  user16269 Oct 6 '12 at 18:33
    
re @DavidWallace comment. Isn't that so? Certainly. –  Kris Oct 7 '12 at 5:17
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The usage is correct. It also makes clear that the person who is the father figure in John's life currently will participate.

It does not imply living, marital or birth arrangements for you or John's dad. The adult to whom you are referring

  • may or may not live with you
  • may or may not live with John
  • may or may not be married to you
  • may or may not be John's biological father
  • may or may not have legal guardianship or custody of John

Regardless of which combinations of the options listed above apply, the a male person who has a parental role in John's life will be present. That is probably what the school is most interested in.

That being said, people make all sorts of assumptions about marital status, living arrangements, parental history and so forth, based on their world view, not necessarily based on your communication. That is their problem, not yours.

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