…He Likes Me, He Likes Me Not… : A Rhetorical Analysis


In grad school, we talk about this thing called, “the rhetorical situation”, which basically means, if you make a big deal out of something, it becomes “A Thing”, such as Ebola, the presidential elections, tornado season, and….trying to determine if a guy likes you or not. And, when analyzing a rhetorical situation, we look at things, such as syntax, word choice, organization of argument, figurative language, places where the argument does not make sense…

If we believe that language can be representative of uncontrollable, unconscious desires, then we can utilize language analysis as a way to uncover those unconscious desires. For example, I just wrote a paper on an e-mail I received, and how that e-mail perpetuated dictator-like, Big Brother qualities that actually describe the personality of the sender, but I do not think the sender consciously crafted the e-mail in that way. The sender thinks they are omniscient, high and mighty, and the syntax, word choice, and organization (and, also grammatical errors) directly reflect that egotistical self-image. Oh, and I got an A on this paper.

So, I decided, why not turn those skills I learn in my grad class towards a very relevant, very confusing rhetorical situation (especially for us girls, who make a BIG deal out of EVERYTHING): Does he like me, or does he not like me? If my theory holds true, I think, if you just pay attention to his language, you can answer that question yourself (and alleviate countless hours of you staying up late at night, wondering if he is your future boyfriend or not, and whether you should text him back or not even waste your time…)

Upon my analysis of the language of dating interactions, I think you can determine that he likes you if:

He uses “our”, “us”, and “we” pronouns: Once he makes the switch from “you” and “me” pronouns and starts referring to “OUR date”, and “When WE make friends”, and “They invited US”, it’s all over for him. He’s already seeing visions of you as one singular entity, a unified couple that does not need to be split up by “you” and “me” pronouns. I once dated a guy, and when we broke up, I knew he still liked me, because he still referred to that date that WE went on, and OUR playlist of songs, and what would happen to US if we continued dating. If you have made it to the usage of plural pronouns, you are in.

He frantically invites you to go and do everything together: When he starts planning on taking you to places that are WAY in the future, it’s probably a sure sign that he is into you. Like, “Do you want to go to Country Jam with me that is in nine months from now?”, “How about we travel to Ireland next summer?”, “If I win this trip, I will take you to Vegas with me for the PRCA Finals” (Or, if you are ultra nerdy, MineCon in London…). I think this is his unconscious way of trying to make contracts with you so that it eases his anxiety and, in some weird, irrational way, forces you to stay interested in him. Like, if we have these imaginary plans with each other nine months from now, we are somehow obligated to stay in touch with each other, and within that time, he can try to win you over with his charm so when MineCon comes, you are so swept off your feet, you completely forgot about his invitation.

Suddenly, all of YOUR interests become HIS interests: As soon I tell people I teach English, they automatically start talking about all the books they have read. And, when I tell them I write on a blog (beware: you might end up on it), they suddenly become fascinated and want to start reading my posts immediately (however, I am pretty sure it’s because of my blog and the likelihood that you WILL end up on it that scares all the men away).  I usually ask some clarifying questions just to see if his knowledge is legit or not. You can usually tell by the pitch of his voice, the excitement in his inflections, the attempt to ask questions, and share whatever knowledge he may have on the subject. And, you can tell if these really are his interests based on the reactions from his friends. Like, if his friends roll their eyes when he starts talking about books, that is a good indication he is just pulling my leg (and, it’s also a good indication if the only books he talks about come in a motion picture version…)

He sends your pictures of Man-At-Work-Selfie: Ok, so this isn’t necessarily language related, but I always laugh when, the day after we meet, the guy sends me a picture of him working. Like, operating the bulldozer or wearing his scrubs or marching in uniform. It’s also obvious that (a) he probably spent a really long time, trying to position himself correctly or (b) had to ask someone to take a picture of him, so this Man-At-Work selfie was totally planned. If I am looking at ‘the rhetorical situation’, he is most likely doing this, because he is trying to impress me with his macho-ness. He wants me to see him doing really manly things.

So, he refers to you as a couple, he tries to make future commitments with you, and then you get a Man-At-Work-Selfie, and he ls into the same things you are into: You got a winner! Now you can stop staying up all night, contemplating whether that that wink was a wink of affection towards you, or just that he had something stuck in his eye…

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