Thursday, March 11, 2010

Indirect flirting

In my linguistics class yesterday we talked about indirect speech, which is when we say one thing but actually mean another. If you think about it, we actually say what we literally mean far less often than we think, all in the name of politeness. For instance, when we say "Is it your turn to do the dishes today?" what we really mean is "The kitchen is disgusting and apparently you've forgotten it's your dish day, so do the dishes!!!" And when someone cuts us in line at the grocery store and we say "Excuse me, I believe I was next," what we actually mean is "Get to the back of the line, you self-entitled jerk." Normally we all speak the same form of indirect language, and so we can all be rude to each other without using actual rudeness. However, when it comes to dating, sometimes it seems as if guys and girls are speaking a completely different language altogether. One phrase or gesture can mean two completely different things, depending on gender. For example:

Actual sentence: Sorry, I'm busy.
What the girl meant: I'm not interested, but I'm giving you one chance to take the hint gracefully before I have to spell it out for you.
What the guy hears: Oh darn, I really think you're hot stuff and want to go out with you, but I have a life or death situation to attend to. Please ask me out again.

Acutal sentence: I'm SO sorry! I have to go to my grandmother's funeral then, but I would love to go out with you some other time.
What the girl meant: Dang it! Why did it have to be this weekend?! PLEASE ask me out again, because I really like you!
What the guy hears: I am not interested. In fact, I am so not interested that I'm lying to you. Please do not ever ask me out again.

Actual sentence: I think that movie looks so good!
What the girl is actually saying: Please ask me on a date to this movie.
What the guy hears: I think that movie looks good, and I would love to see it by myself or with my female friends.

Actual sentence: I love this song!
What the girl meant: Please ask me to dance.
What the guy hears: I would enjoy standing here and talking to you about the song and what makes it good while everyone else dances. The only thing that would be better is if you wandered off to get a drink or talk to your buddies standing on the sidelines.

Actual sentence: Ha ha ha, you are so much fun to hang out with! And smart! And cute!
What the girl meant: I am really laying it on thick now. I'm being so obvious I'm pretty sure even Helen Keller could tell I was flirting.
What the guy hears: I might be slightly interested in you. Then again, maybe not. You'd better not risk asking me out yet. But keep leading me on, just in case.

If they could teach us how to translate THAT type of indirect language in linguistics, it would be the most popular class on campus.

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