From ghosting to breadcrumbing, the new glossary of love

Hindustan Times | By
Sep 10, 2017 01:51 PM IST

How many of these new-age relationship statuses do you recognise?

Every generation has had its terms of endearment. Sugar, babe and honey have endured. Less palatable ones like ‘necking’ have faded out. But what about ‘steady’ and ‘dumped’? Interestingly, they haven’t just been replaced. They’ve been sub-categorised to an astonishing degree.

(Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)
(Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)

There are so many new ways to be let go, to be haunted or to otherwise have your relationship status change without your knowledge or consent, and today’s glossary of love has a term for each one — breadcrumbing followed by ghosting, then zombie-ing. Benching, stashing and catfishing.

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“It’s always been important for young people to ‘name’ things,” says author Jerry Pinto. “The fact that most of the new terms are negative only speaks for the fact that the positive emotions generated already have names. We know what we feel when we fall in love, we have the language. It’s the ways in which the right-swipe-left-swipe binary hurts that need naming.”

Many of the new terms seem to seek to address the many new ways in which you uncouple, or fail to.

“People break up, but stay in each other’s friends’ lists or follow common friends on Instagram,” says family counsellor Gouri Dange. “Some of these terms are a coping mechanism for the sense of confusion that this causes.”

So which one are you, bencher or benchee; ghoster or ghosted? Here’s the list…

BENCHING: You go on a couple of dates with someone, you like the person, but they don’t make your heart go pit-a-pat. So, what do you do? You ‘bench’ them and keep browsing for better options. If nothing turns up, they’re off the bench… at least for a while.


BREADCRUMBING: This is the act of sending out flirtatious but non-committal text messages (‘breadcrumbs’) in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort. It’s also called ‘Hansel-and-Gretelling’, after the fairytale with the dark twist. So those light, flirty texts you’ve been getting? You can snap them up if you like, but do be aware that they’re not really going to lead anywhere…


CATFISHING: ‘Hi, myself Marc Jacobs. I’m a engineer staying in United Kingdom. Can we be friends?’ This is clearly a guy who is catfishing. The closest he’s ever got to the island nation is probably a fake FCUK T-shirt. But not all catfishing is obvious. Sometimes, it can be used fairly effectively to lure someone into a relationship using a fictional online persona. The origin of the term? A 2010 documentary on a romance scam. So watch out, people.


CUSHIONING: You like a girl, but she is in a steady relationship with someone else. You don’t flirt with her, or may be just a little, very innocently. You ping her regularly on WhatsApp, tag her in funny videos or give her cutesy nicknames — all with an ulterior motive. You are prepping, in case she breaks up with the guy and then you can be the first ‘cushion’ she falls back on.


DRAKING: This is named for the rapper Drake, known for the sad relationship dramas in his songs (“Guess you lose some and win some / Long as the outcome is income”). You’re bound to know someone like this, some pouty face on your timeline who is constantly posting about the fact that they are in a relationship but aren’t happy. They will drop hints, pen verse, philosophise. There’ll be a faraway look in every second selfie; melancholic posts about being misunderstood; DPs that suddenly go black. Stop it, people. It’s attention-seeking, whiney and annoying. Ain’t nobody got time for that.


HAUNTING: This is when someone who ghosted you (abruptly vanished in the midst of a relationship, no explanation, no warning) suddenly pops up, but not directly either — an Instagram like here, a LinkedIn profile check there, still not actually interacting with you. Why do they do that? This remains a mystery. Maybe they still have a crush on you (oh God… how will you know? What will you do if that turns out to be true!) or they just don’t want you to forget them (wait, what?!) or they’re just bored… chances are, you’ll never really know.


KITTEN-FISHING: Regulars on Tinder will have gone through this at least once, though they may not have known there was a word for it. Kitten-fishing is creating a heavily doctored image for yourself online, in terms of both the actual visuals and the personality you portray. Degrees of kitten-fishing can range from outright lies and PhotoShopping to uploading a much younger profile picture, or pretending you read Kafka / hate Carrie Bradshaw (depending on what you’re looking for out there).


LOVE-BOMBING: No, it’s not sexual. Well, not entirely. This is when a relationship starts out as a whirlwind romance, all red hearts and talk of the moon, grand declarations and talk of past-life connections, until you start to reciprocate in the same tone. Then it goes south, with the person turning moody and controlling, or losing interest altogether. Either way, the ticking time-bomb has gone off and it is time to get out of there.


MOONING: The term “mooning” refers to that half-moon symbol on the iPhone which indicates that the user has set their incoming call and text notifications to ‘Do not disturb’, temporarily turning off all notifications. As a dating term, it refers to someone who has been shut out completely, either because they were too annoying, or too clingy, or maybe because the other person just found someone more riveting. Whatever the reason, it’s an ouch!


STASHING: This is where the person you’ve been seeing for a while won’t acknowledge your existence in any of his / her circles — family, friends, colleagues or social media. It’s also called Jekkyl-and-Hydeing. He’s all affection and kisses when you’re together, but freezes you out in company, offline and online. Maybe he’s benching you. Maybe he’s cushioning someone else. God!!!


ZOMBIE-ING: You think being ‘ghosted’ is the worst thing that can happen to you? Well, newsflash, the post-ghosting ‘zombies’ can be worse. No, this has nothing to do with the end of the world and the dawn of the half-dead. This is when a person who has successfully ghosted you resurfaces much later, just when you had got over the hurt and annoyance of being ghosted. Do you ghost them in return? Do you get sucked back in for another cycle of hearts and then tears? Be strong, we say.

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    Madhusree is a feature writer who loves Kolkata, is learning to love Mumbai. She loves to travel, write and bake

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