The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Defining “To Date”

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At some point, the verb “to date” became a four-letter word and the idea of going out changed to going in.

Today’s 3D Definition: To Date

The Huffington Post reports on the Roy Moore sex scandal that has emerged in the wake of the Weinstein effect: “It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls.”

These stories appear to be tainting the reputation of a political candidate, especially since he is known for having refused, as chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, to remove a statue of the 10 Commandments that a federal judge considered a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.

Here is its 3D definition:

Date, verb:

Before 1970, for a boy to go out with a girl or for a girl to go out with a boy. Sometime after 1970, for both sexes, of any age, to go in when going out.

Contextual note

Although standard practice in the media has become increasingly tolerant of vocabulary that was formerly considered unprintable, the preferred verb for sexual activity between two people has become “to date.” It has the advantage of designating a compromising act while implying that it could be something more innocent, akin to “going steady.” It is unlikely, however, that anyone describing Moore’s case imagines that “dating” high school girls meant inviting them for a milkshake at the local soda fountain and then maybe going to see a movie together.

Some have noted that the 10 Commandments contain the admonition, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s., etc.,” without also specifying the daughter of the neighbor’s wife. Moore, as a lawyer, might argue that this lets him off the hook. It does, however, mention the neighbor’s “ass,” which may prove to be incriminating if it can ever be proved that this was not necessarily an exclusive reference to a type of farm animal.

Sean Hannity bravely confronted Moore for Fox News, asking him if he had dated teenage girls as an older man. His answer was, “It would have been out of my customary behavior,” which proves that “out” can indeed be “in.”

Linguistic note

The other common expression that may designate the same type of activity is “sleeping together,” which of course doesn’t require any actual sleep to be true.

Historic note

The 1962 song “Go Away Little Girl,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, became a hit sung by Bobby Vee and Steve Lawrence. It had the slightly troubling lyrics:

“Go away little girl

Go away little girl

I’m not supposed to be alone with you

Oh yes I know that your lips are sweet

But our lips must never meet

I belong to someone else and I must be true.”

When the 14-year-old Donny Osmond recorded it in 1971, the line “I belong to someone else and I must be true” was changed to “I’m dating somebody else and I must be true.”

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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