As if dating wasn’t hard enough, now there are a million apps and a whole new vocabulary to memorize. The concepts of baes and benching aren’t new to love and relationships, but because of social media (and texting, and swiping, and emoji), now they’re camouflaged by strangely innocuous words that make dating culture even harder to navigate. Read on for the slang you need to know if you’re on a quest to find your OTP.
1. Bae: Bae refers to your girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, significant other, or object of desire — whether real, in progress, or aspirational. There are different stories of where bae originated from: Some claim it’s a shortened version of “babe” (because “babe” just wasn’t short enough), and others say it’s an acronym for “before anyone else.” What is not questioned, however, is its rise in popularity. In 2014, it was an Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year runner up (the crown went to “vape”), and it became the first meme of 2017 when a Turkish chef seasoned his meat in the most extra way, earning him internet fame as “salt bae.”
2. Benching: Someone is benching if they’re keeping their dating options open, AKA leading you on. You may have gone on a great date together, but since then, they only text intermittently and primarily with emoji, make vague plans they never follow through on, or cancel on you at the last minute because of flimsy excuses like, “I forgot I have a work thing.” They’re double tapping on your ‘grams to make sure you don’t forget about them, but you’ve been benched like a second-string athlete waiting for someone else to get injured so you have a shot in the game. TL; DR: He’s just not that into you.
3. Breadcrumbing: Breadcrumbing is the lazy person’s version of benching. Every time mercury is in retrograde, a breadcrumber will re-emerge and slide into your DMs or text you a short message (“U up?”), teasing you with the fact that they’re still thinking about you but not making any effort whatsoever toward a real life date or relationship. Note to prospective partners: The only time breadcrumbs should be involved is if you’re wandering into the woods toward a house made of candy or about to make some fried chicken tenders for dinner. Otherwise, save your carbs for something worthwhile.
4. Conscious Uncoupling: When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced they were divorcing, they chose to describe it as a “conscious uncoupling” (the term was coined by a psychotherapist prior to that). It’s basically another way of saying two adults made an adult decision to do something adult. Which begs the question: Is there such thing as unconscious uncoupling? Did a couple ever sleep break up and then the next morning find all their shared social media photos deleted and think, well, “I guess that’s that”?
5. Cuffing Season: Cuffing season refers to the fall and winter months when the weather outside is frightful and cuddling inside is delightful. Singles intentionally look to couple up during this period because it provides extra body heat and (hand)cuffing someone to you during the holidays means you don’t have to endure all those awkward family gatherings alone. It begins approximately when pumpkin spice starts its seasonal domination of all things food-related and ends when you dust off the crochet crop tops in preparation for festival season.
6. Cushioning: Cushioning is getting yourself some dating insurance. Even though you’re seeing someone, you’re also stringing along some backup boos (possibly the benchwarmers in #2) that can cushion your fall if your current relationship doesn’t work out. It’s essentially cheating by another name. It’s like if someone loses a chess game and then goes around telling everyone they got second place. Sorry, that’s not a thing; just admit you lost, and let’s all move on.
7. DM: DM, or direct message, is contacting someone via social media when you don’t have their phone number. It usually requires charm and smooth talking to slide into someone’s DMs without coming off as a total internet stalker, but it’s a way to chat up someone out of the blue while still getting a sense of who they are (by only slightly internet stalking them). Like Yo Gotti said, “It goes down in the DM.”
8. Drafting Season: Drafting season is the counter to cuffing season. During the warm spring and summer months, everyone is brunching outdoors, single and mingling. It’s the perfect time for people to evaluate the pool of potential mates for someone they can bunker down with when cuffing season rolls around. Just like sports drafts, there are a lot of players involved, and it’s usually very confusing.
9. DTR: DTR, or Define the Relationship, is the conversation you have to address the elephant in the room during the early gray stage of a relationship — are you two… dating? Is this an actual romantic relationship? No one likes having the “talk,” but it’s definitely better than that awkward moment when someone you thought you friendzoned changes their Facebook status to “In a Relationship”… with you.
10. Friends With Benefits/No Strings Attached: Friends With Benefits (FWB) and No Strings Attached (NSA) are two sides of the same coin. FWB refers to platonic friends who mutually decide to hook up without crossing over the dating line. And NSA is when two people (friends or not) decide to get involved physically but without committing to anything more, like a relationship or those pesky things called feelings. FWB and NSA were also similarly themed movies that released the same year and starred Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as one couple and Mr. Mila Kunis (Ashton Kutcher) and Natalie Portman as the other. If you can’t remember who was in which movie, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is (spoiler alert): Both couples failed miserably at maintaining their titular pseudo-relationships and fell in love at the end. But don’t let that convince you that either of these is a good idea.
11. Ghosting: Ghosting is when you’re dating someone and it’s moving along quite nicely, and then all of a sudden, the other person cuts off all communication and completely vanishes from your life, both real and digital. It’s a way to break up with someone without having to tell them to their face, and it’s savage AF. Be an adult, and just don’t.
12. Haunting: When someone who has ended things with you reappears every now and then to like or interact with your social accounts (e.g., watching your Snapchat story), you’re being haunted. Having this ghost of relationships past still lurking around in the ether causes you to be paranoid and anxious like that little kid in The Sixth Sense who just wanted to stop seeing dead people.
13. Love Bombing: Love bombing is when someone lavishes you with attention, future promises, and grand gestures quickly and early in your relationship, to the point where you are immediately smitten with them. But as soon as you show any sign of not making them a priority, they can turn on you. It’s a form of manipulation using over-the-top affection, so remember, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.
14. Monkeying: Monkeying is swinging from relationship to relationship to relationship. You take no downtime in between to reevaluate your dating choices because you think you’ll lose momentum and fall into a puddle of tears on the ground. Pro tip: It’s okay to be single.
15. Netflix and Chill: This is inviting someone over to hook up while Netflix is on in the background. Remember those family movie nights when you’d pick a movie and everyone would pile on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn? Well, this isn’t that, and also, never use this term in front of your parents.
16. One Hit Wonder*: A One Hit Wonder (OHW, or alternatively a Take on Me or TOM) is someone who was a fun, short-term fling that didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. Similar to catchy songs like A-ha’s “Take on Me” or Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” you were really into them for a solid two weeks/summer, spending every party and road trip together. You couldn’t get them out of your head until you did. Then you promptly forgot about and never saw them again, and it was totally okay. Every now and then, they’ll pop up on social media as one of those “people you may know,” and you fondly wonder what they’re up to but not enough to friend request them.
17. Penguining*: Despite what Friends told you, lobsters do not mate for life (females take turns with the dominant male — what players). Most penguins species, on the other hand, are lifelong monogamists. Plus, they’re cute and always appropriately dressed to the nines in their chic black and white outfits. So when you and your forever bae have found each other for life, you’re penguining.
18. Talking: Talking is a term to ambiguously define your relationship without openly calling someone your significant other. If you’re “talking” to someone, you could be trying to date them, already exclusively seeing them, or something in between. It’s a generic term to bucket everything that could be possibly interpreted as commitment to the outside world and a sign that you probably need to DTR. You know, like actually talk to each other.
19. Vacuum-Sealed*: When your partner texts, calls, and generally smothers you to the point where you can barely breathe, you’ve been vacuum-sealed. There’s wanting to spend quality time together and there’s a “Can I live?” breaking point. If you find yourself in the latter situation, it’s time to say, “Boy, bye.”
20. Zombie-ing: If you’ve been ghosted, which is emotionally traumatizing in and of itself, and then the other person starts communication again out of nowhere — as if they’re back from the dead — you’ve now been zombie-d. It’s kind of like a scene out of The Walking Dead, where you’re slightly relieved to see a formerly familiar face but now are creeped out by their un-deadness.
*Okay, so OHW, penguining, and vacuum-sealed are not real dating terms (that we know of), but don’t they sound like they could be? Yes, this is the world we now live in. So, BRB, we’ve got to go back to hiberdating (trust us, that’s a thing).
What are your favorite/least favorite dating slang terms? Share them with us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)