Saturday, March 10, 2007

A semantic complaint about the phrase "hook up"

Boots and Sabers this morning looks at an article that discusses the phenomenon of hooking up. That little piece got my hackles up. Not for the reasons you might expect, mind you, but rather because the age group just behind me stole a phrase I used to use a lot.

I'd say the hook up culture started in the age group just behind mine, the group that was entering college as I was graduating. Actually, I take that back. The hook up culture already sort of existed, but I believe it had different names when I was that age-booty calls, friends with benefits, etc. But it was that age group that began to commandeer the phrase hook up. I have friends from college in that age group, so I was aware of the terminology change fairly early on. I wasn't part of that culture, though, so I left them to use the phrase as they chose, and I continued to use it as I chose. And I used to use it a lot. It would not be uncommon to hear me say something to a friend along the lines of, "let's hook up at the bar at around 1, then we'll head on over to catch our tee time at 3." For a while, the two meanings of "hook up" were able to peacefully live on simultaneously.

Then it started to happen. Several years back I began to notice that I'd get a funny look every once in a while when I'd say "hook up" in my parlance. Usually the funny look would come from someone younger who did not know me as well as my close friends. At first, I soldiered on with my preferred meaning of the phrase, youngsters be damned. But as more and more people from that "hook up" age group began to enter the work force, I found myself more and more uncomfortable using the the phrase hook up anymore. The last thing a career minded guy wants is a business associate or a co-worker misinterpreting what you mean by hook up. I began to make a concerted effort to cease using the phrase at all. I would catch myself and insert some other way of saying meet or get together. I have now come close to eliminating my use of the phrase "hook up" all together.

I find it irritating that this younger age group's definition of hook up has all but killed the old meaning for me. Hook up was a great, casual, active way of saying get together or meet up, and it had no sexual connotations. It was ingrained in my lexicon. The new meaning of the phrase has begun to seep into society's collective conscience now, and as it does it becomes more and more of pet peeve to me. I hear it now and it sounds like finger nails on a chalk board. I want to fight back for the meaning of the phrase, but it is hopeless. Hook up is dead to me.

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