“Did You Bring the Yarmulke for the Cabbage Patch Kid?” The Idiomatic Communication of Young Lovers


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The relationships of various aspects of idiomatic communication to the interpersonal sentiments of 100 romantically involved heterosexual couples were examined. After completing measures of love, liking, commitment, and closeness, the partners of each dyad were questioned about any words, phrases, or nonverbal signs they had created that had meaning unique to their relationship. The 647 idioms reported were coded for their form (i.e., verbal versus nonverbal), context of use (i.e., private idioms, which were used only when others were not present, versus public idioms, which could be used in the presence of others), and function (i.e., confrontations, expressions of affection, labels for outsiders, nicknames, requests, sexual invitations, sexual references/euphemisms, and teasing insults). For both sexes, loving, commitment, and closeness were correlated with number of reported idioms that expressed affection, initiated sexual encounters, and referred to sexual matters. The only significant relationship for liking was between females' liking scores and the frequency of idioms with sexual referents. A log‐linear analysis revealed a significant association between the function of the idioms and their form; labels for outsiders, nicknames, sexual references/euphemisms, and teasing insults were almost always verbal. A significant association was also found between idiom function and context of use; labels for outsiders and teasing insults were most often used in situations involving other people, whereas sexual invitations and sexual references/euphemisms were usually used in private situations. Finally, males were the inventors of idioms much more often than females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-67
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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