Tag Archives: codes

Social Codes

A couple weeks ago I asked for help putting together a list of social codes people use, when we say certain words but mean something else. You provided! Thank you so much! Before leaping into the list, I just want to make a point to say (as has been pointed out to me), many of these depend on the context in which they are said. I have tried to include notes on the contexts in question, but please do point out to me any I have missed. Also, this is an ongoing list, so if you have any more I would love for you to tell me so I can add them!

And now, in no particular order, I give you social codes.

“Hi, how are you?” = “Hi, I acknowledge you as a person.” (US)

“I would like to get to know you better” = “I want to get into your pants/date you.” (US)

“Bless your (his/her) heart.” = Sometimes this is a compliment, but other times it is an insult/used sarcastically. (southern US)

“How was your weekend?” = This sometimes means “Please ask me about my weekend.” and other times is another version of “Hi, I acknowledge you as a person.” (US)

“We should do lunch sometime” = “Well, I gotta go now, bye, but I don’t literally plan on making lunch plans with you soon.”

“I’m sorry” = This can mean lots of things beyond apologies, including “I feel sympathy for you” and “You aren’t going to like this, please don’t get mad at me.”

“I think we should see other people” = “I am breaking up with you (and might already have someone else in mind).”

“Oh, you know…” or “Oh, just stuff…” or other vague replies to questions = “I am being vague on purpose because I do not want to answer you, please just drop it.”

wearing headphones, reading a book, or playing on a smartphone = ”I’m not really interested in conversing with others right now”

“You’re such a nice guy!” = “You’re cool, but I am not attracted to you.”

“We should do this again sometime!” = (often but not always) “We should never do this again.”

“That’s interesting” = “I don’t like this piece of art/music/book/whatever. but I don’t want to come out and tell you I don’t like it because I can see you do.” (midwestern US)

“You know what I mean?” (when said after some form of commentary) = “I want you to confirm that you’re listening and to affirm what I’m saying because I’m having strong feelings about this and need to know someone’s taking me seriously. If you need to disagree with me, acknowledge my feelings first then disagree gently.”

“Ok?” (when punctuating a statement or command) = “I want you to indicate to me that what I’m saying is registering and that you will behave accordingly in the future.”

“I’m talking to this guy,” or “I’m talking to this girl.” (in some high schools) = “We’re romantically interested in each other and are moving toward dating.”

“We should get coffee sometime.” = “I’d like to spend a casual 30 minutes or so with you, probably talking and learning more about each other or catching up on each others’ lives. I might take the initiative on this if I’m not too busy, or you may need to reach out to me to make it happen.”

catch you later = see you later

“Just a minute” = “Wait until I’m done with this, it may not be precisely a minute until I am done.”

“Sweet” (said as a reply to someone) = “That is cool”

“That’s ok” (in response to an apology) = “I hear your apology,” not “That action was ok with me.”


Filed under social skills