I’ve done it. Charlize Theron has (somewhat more famously) done it, to none other than Sean Penn. Eleven percent of U.S. adults have done it. It’s called “ghosting,” and it means severing all contact with someone you’re seeing and giving no explanation as to why. Recently named as one of Collins English Dictionary’s words of the year, the act is commonplace in modern dating, with cutting all ties deemed far easier than, well, telling somebody that you want to cut all ties with them.
“I’d been on about five dates with a guy and it was all going well,” says 27-year-old Caty*, who works in marketing. “But after I went on vacation, during which time we’d texted back and forth, he totally disappeared.”
“It was pretty f***ing cowardly,” she rails. “If I’ve been on dates with someone and am no longer interested in carrying it on, I’ll either let it fizzle out naturally or tell them. Ghosting leaves people guessing or questioning rather than just being upfront, and I’d rather honesty—even if it might not be what I want to hear.”
For public relations executive Sara, 24, ghosting was the only way of getting through to a guy she had been seeing for months. “I’d already had a discussion with him about where we were going, and that I felt things needed to change if we were to continue,” she recalls. “I didn’t see the point in going over that conversation again, so I just ignored him and eventually he got the message. He wasn’t the nicest guy in the world so I didn’t feel all that bad.”
Sara says that ghosting is now a necessary defense mechanism in the dating world. “More and more, guys are cowardly and run away from honesty, so I’ve probably adopted a similar approach as a result of all the nightmare stories I’ve heard. Rather than talking things out and being very clear, I’ve now started avoiding situations altogether.”
And the ghoster has been ghosted on, too: “I was dating a guy who was nice as pie. Then, just out of the blue, he completely stopped talking to me. I never heard from him again. I saw him at a party a year later and we totally avoided each other—it was awkward as fuck.”
One thing’s for sure, the language of love—or at least hookups—is evolving rapidly. Here are the terms you need to know about to stay ahead in the dating game.
The modern dating dictionary
Bae, noun: A word that has the same meaning as its longer counterpart, “babe,” but with one less character. Some say it stands for “before anyone else.” Example: “How you doin’, bae?”
Bag job, adjective: Someone with a hot body but unattractive face, as in would look better with a paper bag over their head. Example: “He was ripped, but a real bag job.”
Binge-watch, verb: What you do instead of going out on a date, also named as Collins English Dictionary’s 2015 word of the year. Example: “I can’t meet up with that magician again—I’m going to binge-watch Master of None instead.”
Cuffing season, noun: When people who are promiscuous during the warmer parts of the year couple up once the leaves start turning. Popularized by Fabolous on his 2013 track Cuffin Season, in which he talks about “summer hoes turning into winter wifeys.” Example: “I need to find a man this cuffing season, as a boyfriend is a more financially viable option for warmth than turning up the heat.”
Hotline bling, adjective: Booty call. Brought into existence by Drake in his 2015 single of the same name, in which he sings: “I know when that hotline bling/that can only mean one thing.” Example: “My ex is calling. This is obviously a hotline bling.”
Netflix and chill, verb: A quite confusing euphemism that does not in fact mean streaming vast quantities of on-demand television whilst enjoying some relaxation, but rather, sex. Example: “Sup bae, want to come round for Netflix and chill?”
Swerve, verb: Another word for dodging someone, used in Kanye West’s 2011 release, Mercy: “Your chick she so thirsty (swerve).” Example: “Dude’s screen saver is a picture of his mom. Swerve.”
Thirst, adjective: Over-eagerness to get something, usually sex-related. Example: “The thirst is real.”
Tinder, verb: To go on dating app Tinder and attempt to find a locally sourced hookup. Example: “I Tindered last night and all I got was dick pics.”
*Name has been changed.