“Would you like your receipt?” asked my ever-chipper Starbucks barista.
Before I can catch myself, it slips out.
Never before was “otay” a part of my vocabulary. My girlfriend at the time, however, said it constantly instead of “okay,” and now it had seeped into my own usage.
Appalled that something so cutesy would dare come out of my mouth, I turn away from the barista without uttering another word to wait for my drink, while giving myself a silent-but-stern talking-to about not becoming one of those people.
You know the type. The kind of person who merges their sense of self, personality and even mannerism with whomever they happen to be dating at the time. But even though it might annoy your friends, it turns out that it’s not such a terrible thing to start modeling behaviors of the one you love. In fact, “verbal matching” (as University of Texas at Austin researchers call this phenomenon) could be a sign that you’re actually just in a successful and stable relationship.
Researchers have proven repeatedly that couples who share words and speech patterns tend to have longer-lasting relationships with more attraction and less arguing. So no, doing it doesn’t mean you’re a codependent pod-person. It just means you’re listening.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked couples (and self-reflective singles) to weigh in on the gifts of gab they’ve received from their significant others—from simple words and phrases to entirely new accents.
My boyfriend of the past 10 months is British, so I’ve picked up a lot of annoying little words, like “quite.” Except for Brits, “quite” means “admissible or average,” not “very.” So when I talk to American people, they think it’s “really” something when I say “quite,” but when I talk to British people they’re like, “Excuse me?” At work, I was talking to a British person and she was explaining her project and I said, “Oh, that’s quite good” and she sort looked at me for awhile and said, “So, do you think it’s good or not?” It’s as if I’m shading them. It basically tempers everything I say, which I hate.
Peter, 27 (Katie’s boyfriend)
Thanks to Katie, I’ve started saying “fuck-ass.” I’ve started using it, not just as an exclamation, but as an adjective, too. Like, that “fuck-ass guy who just cut me off on the subway stairs,” or like, “it was a fuck-ass piece of pizza” if it was a big piece of pizza.
I’ve picked up a hell of a lot of talk from my husband of 24 years, Jeff, and those words and phrases slip out quite a bit. One is “bitchin’.” I never said that before, I wasn’t really a “bitchin’” kind of girl. Bitchin’ is a good thing, like “Check out that bitchin’ car.” Also, he taught me “Johnny,” for a policeman, and “flip a bitch” for when you make a really quick U-turn while driving. I just love “flip a bitch.” I use it pretty often. There’s also, “Blind in one eye, can’t see out the other,” which basically means you’re fucked. I love that one.
Jeff, 54 (Shannon’s husband)
The only phrase that comes to mind is “Well, there’s no question.” That’s something Shannon says a lot. With that, she lets just about anyone know that even if you think there’s a question, there isn’t. She’s right.
Senior year of high school I was dating this girl and we spent a lot of time together. She used to just say “bye” to exit conversations or arguments, very abruptly, with total disregard for anyone else. Just, “Bye.” Meaning, “Eff this situation, don’t care what you have to say, I’m going to do me right now.” I’ve been saying that as a last resort ever since.
I would say something like, “You’re so annoying” and one of my ex-boyfriends would answer, “Hmm, debatable.” I picked that up. I don’t say it anymore, but it was a long time after we broke up before I stopped. And when I dated John, my most recent ex-boyfriend, he would always describe things as “Glorious,” like “Oh, my shower was glorious.” I hated that, but I noticed I would start saying it.
When I was with my last boyfriend, I used to buy these huge boxes of ice cream sandwiches that would be done by the end of the week because he would eat so many at night. He would call them his “sweetie-weeties,” so I started calling them that, too. I would mock him for eating two or three in one night and he would be like, “I need my sweetie-weeties!” I was repulsed, but I also couldn’t not laugh at that. I actually ended up calling people my sweetie-weeties.
When I was 20, I dated a Colombian guy who was a recent immigrant. I’m a Latina, so we spoke a lot in Spanish when we were alone. He was insecure around my friend group, which was super white, so I unconsciously started speaking with an accent to make him more comfortable. By the end of our relationship, I sounded like Sofia Vergara. But that was more natural than when I dated another recent immigrant, an Albanian guy, a couple years ago. True to form, I developed a pretty heavy European accent. Basically, all of my former boyfriends were foreigners and I somehow started speaking English as if it were my second language.
While dating my ex, I started combining genitals with inanimate objects to create insults. That was something she did a lot. Like “ass-hat,” “dick-bucket,” “vagina-pillow.” That last one, “vagina-pillow,” is actually kind of nice. She’s also Midwestern and pronounced “ancient” like “ank-shunt,” which is totally wrong. Even though I was totally opposed to it whenever I heard her say it, I still occasionally catch myself saying it that way all these years later.
My ex-girlfriend, in her heavy New York accent, used to always say “going up to the stores” instead of “going shopping,” and that one really stuck with me. It just sounds better. And saying “I’ve got treasures!” when you bring home some really good finds from a store. I was really depressed one day and one of my girlfriends had been out thrifting for a couple hours. When she came back, she said, “I’ve got treasures!” It made me so much happier than if she had just said “stuff” or even “gifts.” It makes everything more special.
Michelle Badillo is a Queens-bred, Los Angeles-based TV writer and MEL contributor. She previously wrote about sober kinksters.