Flip Flop Flying

Not a stranger

with 10 comments

I think the English language needs a new word: something that describes a person who is less than an acquaintance, but more than a stranger.

It’s the person who’s child likes your dog, so you end up smiling or saying hello every now and again. Or the person who used to work in the same building who you would see in the lift now and again. Or the person who works in a local shop, who you raise your eyebrows to as you pass them on the street.

You know no details about this person – their name, their marital status, their hobbies, whether they’re a big fan of Meat Loaf – but they’re not a total stranger, and your hello or eyebrow-raise won’t be greeted with the face of someone looking at a madman.

Not normally, anyway. There was one woman who worked in a local coffee shop until a year or so ago, and she must’ve lived near me because I’d see her walking down my street fairly regularly. Always pleasant when serving me coffee, she couldn’t hide her contempt if I even attempted a half-hearted smile of recognition on the street. But that seems rare. More often than not, it’s the slightly awkward mutual smile or a quick hello.

It seems to me, that this is a linguistic blind spot when it comes to relationships: family, partner, friend, colleague, acquaintance, [new word], stranger.

Written by Craig

July 26th, 2007 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses to 'Not a stranger'

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  1. When I walk my dog I see a number of people regularly and always smile or wave but never stop to talk. I think of them as lone walkers, dunno why. A new word would be much better.

    Anonymous

    26 Jul 07 at 1:15 pm

  2. The only word I’ve had in my head so far is a fairly lame portmanteau: acquainger

    Craig

    26 Jul 07 at 2:09 pm

  3. I wonder if The Deeper Meaning of Liff has anything on this.

    pauldwaite

    26 Jul 07 at 2:48 pm

  4. Good point. I’ve not read The Meaning of Liff since I was a teenager, so my memory is hazy; and I’ve not read The Deeper Meaning of Liff at all. So, yes, maybe…

    Craig

    26 Jul 07 at 2:53 pm

  5. I think you call that someone a nodding acquaintance.
    http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=485642

    Anonymous

    26 Jul 07 at 4:28 pm

  6. Oh yes. Y’know, I’ve asked about ten people about this, and none of them thought there was a word. I completely forgot about ‘nodding acquiantance’. Thank you.

    Craig

    26 Jul 07 at 4:44 pm

  7. I like to think of them as potential dates, except the men and old women, of course (unless they’re hot).

    And though I know we don’t shop at the same baker, the EXACT same thing happened to me with the baker girl. I swooned, she swore.

    The Big A

    27 Jul 07 at 9:38 am

  8. I’d rather see a merge between the words “friendly stranger”: a franger!
    And instead of saying “a friend of mine” you’d say “a frange of mine”.
    Perfect or what!

    Jenni

    27 Jul 07 at 9:44 am

  9. I was going to suggest a “familiar,” as if you see such a person in 5 years, they will seem familiar, though you probably won’t be able to place their face. But “nodding acquaintance” works well, too.

    Arden

    28 Jul 07 at 6:44 pm

  10. Mind you, ‘nodding acquaintance’ is a bit of a mouthful, so I suggest abbreviating… to nonce.

    BiB

    5 Aug 07 at 12:48 am

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