The evolution of “dating”

Have you noticed how the verb “to date,” which used to mean, “to go out with,” now means simply, “to have sexual relations with”?

Here’s proof. In its story on Jackie Wisniewski’s fears that her former lover, Dr. Timothy Jorden, would kill her, the Daily Mail says:

Shipley said Wisniewski had lived with Jorden but left him as she believed he was having affairs with other women. When they broke up after more than a year of dating, he refused to move on.

They were living together, but the Mail nevertheless refers to their relationship as “dating.” Even if they were living together only during the latter part of the year in which they were “dating,” the word “dating” is used to cover the entire period of their relationship, including the time they were living together. In accustomed usage, living together is obviously not the same thing as dating. Therefore in the quoted passage, “dating” can only have the meaning of “having sexual relations.”

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JC from Houston writes:

Looks like “dating” is now what was called in an earlier time “shacking up.”

LA replies:

No. “Dating” means having sexual relations, period. It could be sexual relations with shacking up, or sexual relations without shacking up. When you see a news item saying that actress X has been “dating” actor Y, it means, purely and simply, that X and Y have been having sexual relations.

LA continues:

Now it might be asked, can’t people go out on a date without having sexual relations? Yes. But when a man says, “I went out on a date with her,” or “I had a date with her,” he is speaking of one date. But “dating” doesn’ mean just one date, or two dates. It means an ongoing “dating” relationship (as in “X is dating Y”), which can only mean a sexual relationship.

Timothy A. writes:

I’m currently reading Trollope’s “Barchester Towers” and a note on a phrase in the text informs readers that the meaning of “to make love” was “flirting” or “declaring affection” until the middle of the twentieth century.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 16, 2012 03:46 PM | Send

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