27 April 2023

Mainly for Lexicographers

 (1) Anglophone readers will be familiar with a ?newish sense of the verb to see.

"I suppose I had better admit that that I've been seeing someone else."

 I interpret this to mean that the speaker probably has been doing something more 'hands on' than mere visual contemplation, however intense.

And I wonder how far back such a quaint, nervous, circumlocution might go.

Back in the nineteen twenties, Mrs Miles (Angela) Bredon declines to agree to taking part in a meeting with the Catholic Bishop of Pullford. 

"I don't think I shall come and see the Bishop. It doesn't sound quite proper, somehow. ..."

(2) "To date". I presume this originally referred to a female "co-ed" looking through her diary and offering an importunate youth a 'date' within its pages. 

But I become more and more suspicion that, nowadays, it means "to meet for purposes of sexual intercourse". As in a recent newspaper heading about a woman claiming to have remained friendly with all four of the men she has married; and with all whom she has "dated".

6 comments:

√Čamonn said...

"Seeing" in this sense is a bit like "going out with", which actually tends to mean staying in with.

I confess that when I read "to date", I thought you meant "until now" or "up to the present moment". The only "date" I remember going on with my lady wife was when I took her on a tour of my favourite bookshops, and we stopped by the shrine of St Valentine. I don't think that was what the person in your example had in mind.

Zephyrinus said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke.

“ . . . a woman claiming to have remained friendly with all four of the men she has married; and with all whom she has "dated".”

Please God, not all at once !!!

frjustin said...

While I would not wish to accuse any newspaper of propriety, I rather think this latter extension of the verb to see represents a "superfluity of naughtiness" (James 1:21) which need not have been intended by the writer.

Titus said...

The use of "see" to mean "carry on a romantic relationship with" is curious. It appears almost exclusively in a progressive tense, using the present participle: "am seeing," "was seeing," "have been seeing." "I see Jane sometimes" doesn't have the same connotation.

"To date" has become terribly ambiguous. I do not think there remains a word in standard use in the English language for "to associate with another for the purposes of courtship," i.e., that conveys romantic ties but excludes fornication. One just infers the latter from the former unless the context warrants otherwise, sadly.

Banshee said...

Dating, in the US, has taken on a feeling of formality and courting.

Just having sex became "hooking up" for quite a while. Many young people found themselves having hooked up with many persons, and even having lived together with someone for years, but never had been on a date as far as they could tell.

Fiancee now often means "the woman I live with, as described by herself," to a lot of guys who never get around to marrying anyone.

Confitebor said...

I have no idea when "seeing someone" arose as a roundabout way of saying "engaging in fornication with someone," but no doubt it was a relatively recent development of the very old, even biblically-attested, "seeing" meaning "to be in someone's presence," "to meet." In the Gospel for the Third Sunday After Easter in the Ritus Authenticus, Jesus assures His disciples, "I will see you again." He obviously means more than just literally, passively looking at them. He means they will be together, and thus He will be able to see them, in person.

It is understandable how, as courtship was replaced by "dating" and then by trysts for meaningless sexual intercourse, that the old meaning of "to see" would develop into the present expression to which you refer: not merely meeting someone, but regularly meeting someone for the purposes of sexual intercourse. So I would guess this latest, degenerate connotation has only been around for a century or less.