Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saying What You Mean (and Why I'm an Idiot at Dating)

I'm a big proponent of saying exactly what you mean. Our ability to use specific words to clarify our intent is one of the best things about language in general.

I used to accidentally say things like 'I'm sorry' when caught up in a conversation with someone who was very upset or angry. But after working for years in various jobs, I realized that some people take that sort of comment very literally. They automatically take your simple apology as an admission of responsibility, when all you're really trying to do is make them feel better.

I am also very careful not to commit to anything that I won't be able to provide. My tendency to take language fairly literally has also led me to demanding more clarity from those who are communicating to me.

But, I admit to being completely lost on one particular communication front: dating.

I was hanging out with this guy on Friday, who is nice and easy to talk to...and I like him on a very basic level. Boyfriend level, I'm not sure. But definitely enough to consider it. So, I gave him my phone number when he suggested that he could "get my number and call me sometime on purpose to hang out."

So...to a person like me, who loves the specificity that language enables us to achieve, I find myself wondering - what the hell does "hang out" mean these days?

I think that dating used to be a lot more formal and clear cut. These days I can't tell if I'm just making friends or heading towards a potential good night kiss. I think that they should publish an online guide, one that changes with the times, that tells you the new rules & definitions of dating.

There are certain areas in my life where I feel smart. But dating isn't one of them.

2 comments:

Luke said...

Interesting post. I never know what level of detail to write about on personal matters.

I really enjoy using the specificity of language as you said it. I'm a computer programmer and computer languages are designed to be explicit and unambiguous, but I love designing English sentences that are the opposite of that. This gives me an idea of gathering some of those examples and posting them sometime. Anyway, I find it interesting to find someone that looks at the way sentences are formed and what the meaning behind it as well, but that you come from a very different background.


I'd give you a high chance that "hang out" is essentially an informal date. If you exchanged numbers, he's interested.

Dawn said...

Luke, thanks for the comment.

I'm glad that there are others out there who feel the same way. I would be curious to see your post (should you create one) with some of your ambiguous sentences.

I guess we'll see what 'hang out' means, right?

I tried to take a peek at your blog, but found that I couldn't (you're not sharing!). I completely understand how you feel about writing on personal matters. I'm in the same boat. I guess that my general rule of thumb is never to say anything online that I wouldn't feel comfortable with my boss (current or future) knowing.