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construct identity in words?
Gricean principles are very reflective of the meanings people give to their own words when they describe themselves and their potential mate in personals ads. Gricean principles insist that culturally we represent more with assumption than with literal language. Certain statements imply a more complete message than that which we give through words. Because the ads are brief by nature, the individual does not have the opportunity to have a long deep meaningful conversation with any potential partner, or even complete a single sentence it would seem. It is therefore left to the individual to summarize themselves through a series of codes, which have implied greater cultural meanings. It must also be noted that though an individual is describing a potential partner they are describing a person who has not yet existed within their life, and are therefore simply describing themselves in more detail. They are describing the person, whom they believ will compliment them and help them grow into the person they wish to become in a partnership.
The four greatest features of identification, which are demonstrated in nearly every ad are gender, race, age and marital status yet there are several other characteristics, which are much less straightforward. The ads themselves have two major messages, that which the person is and that which they seek. Additionally, they can also be further broken down into two major themes for each of the above messages, outward and introspective. The physical description of self, the emotional or intellectual description of self and additionally the same for the person they seek. "ATTR SWF 51, YG looks & attitude, Med build, creative, musical, non-smk. ISO of individualistic, open minded, progressive SGLE or Divorced WM Med to LG build. Non-smkr. Over 48." (24)
Comparatively women describing themselves to men, they are seeking and women describing themselves to other women they are seeking are similar but the later seems to rely more on the stereotypes of gender preference, while the former relies upon stereotypes of life position.
Interestingly the two groups both rely heavily upon descriptive appearance of both self and potential partner, though the assumption would be that women describing themselves and their future partner to other women would care less about appearance but this is not the case. (w/m 13 w/w 16) Broken down 28 of the women seeking men describe themselves physically and do so with positive terminology and 23 of the women seeking women do the same. One must question that the number of attractive singles out there are living in a cave if they all need to access love through personal adds.
Additionally, there is a small percentage who describe their sought partner in exclusionary terms rather than or in addition to inclusive terms. (19 of 66) (w/m 4 w/w 15) "Sinceare relies only" (23) "N/S/alch/D/D" (23) [no smoking, alcoholism, diseases or drugs] "Non smkr" (24). These adds leave the reader with the impression that these women have experienced difficulty with these situation in the past or are simply unwilling to explore these particular issues with their perfect potential partner. One ad even states, "No baggage," implying that a potential partner for this individual must be free from any historical or current issues with regards to relationships. All single American's know what baggage is. It is not something you use to pack your clothes for a trip it is a group of emotional past personal experiences that may have been historically challenging in the past and still haunt the owner in current relationships. The message is that even with experience the individual must have worked through all or most of the past hardships that have challenged them in personal relationships. The reader is left asking, is this possible? One fascinating add along these lines expressly asks for a physician yet then excludes any with "egos-or headtrips," both implying that a physician is all that will do for her, pigeon holing her with a stereotyped group of gold diggers, but that many physicians, have large egos and are on some kind of head trip.
The 66 ads analyzed are grouped evenly between those women seeking men and those women seeking women (33 and 33) yet in the later group there is one ad that is clearly the same ad repeated. Nearly 100% each group is comprised of ads, which state age, race, gender of self and most, give their own marital status, though in describing their partner those which give personal descriptions imply, in Gricean fashion, that they seek someone of similar characteristics and others implicitly describe the characteristics which they seek in a partner, be they similar or different.
In describing that which they are seeking most of the ads imply sameness, or compatibility not through differences but through similarity in interest and intentions. The women are seeking partners and often explicitly imply that they are interested in life long partners rather than in temporary companions, "*I Want Sex: Fitness and health enthusiast seeks well read communicative financially secure monogamous family minded m [ale] for friendship and maybe more." *(23) Even with a niche like opening the add still clearly demonstrates that this individual women is seeking a potential life partner, not just a sex mate.
Some very interesting and creative ads reflect the idea of a niche or a catch phrase on the same scale as naming a band "naked ladies" to draw the reader into remembering and responding to them. "Sweet and Sexy Suit: Private investor lkng to invest in HER OWN future, bf, 32 5'10" sks S/DWM 6' 24-40 for a little insider trading of our own" (23) "I believe in fairy tales luv at 1st sight looking 4 my Cinderella, its not my glass slipper that must fit but my mothers wedding band because my intentions R. 4 A LTR RU 36-44, FEM?" (28) The traditional idea of a wedding ring being equated with a nontraditional relationship between two same gender partners is interesting in Gricean terms, also.
One of the niche like ads warrants further analysis, with a Gricean eye. "36 GBF Soul Food for love and I have all the ingredients. You just come with yours." (27) In this ad the woman describes both her own cultural heritage through the descriptive nature of the use of the phrase "soul food" which describes a grouping of African-American foods that are rich in taste and tradition. Yet, it also makes clear that the woman has a traditional family ideal, despite her admission of being attracted to only women and a seemingly steamy personal message with her double meaning of food and sex.
In general these ads demonstrate a slice of the standard attempts many modern people make at achieving the state of partnership. Within the works there are seeming countless examples of both the inherent cultural meanings of certain descriptive words but also all the additional unstated meanings of the messages the individuals are trying to get across, both about their own positive qualities and those of their perfect potential partner.
The adds demonstratively leave out any information that could be construed as negative, unless you consider exclusionary language as a negative aspect of self.
The Gricean concepts as applied to self aggrandizement are interesting in this group of representative personal ads, though would be even more interesting in a comparison, of further study with both genders represented. A further comparative study would potentially demonstrate possible gender differences in representative stereotyping, among men and women, when describing themselves. Gricean principles are clearly very useful in understanding self descriptive language in a particular culture, especially one that is changing drastically in the manner in which people meet one another and develop meaningful LTRs [Long-Term Relationsips].
The challenge to the peruser of such ads is to add the bad to the good.…[continue]
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