Deciphering Women’s Code Words

Katie Young
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Wednesday - December 03, 2008

My friend Sarah sent me an e-mail recently about words women use, which got me thinking about the kind of language we ladies choose to express our feelings and why these phrases need deciphering for most men.

Included on the list were the following:

Five minutes
Go Ahead
(Loud Sigh)



Don’t worry about it, I got it The e-mail stated that the word “fine” is used when a woman wants to end an argument when they are right and the man just needs to be quiet. I think women also use the word “fine” when they are basically just fed up with what a man is doing or saying and don’t want to deal with the situation anymore. We also use the same word when we’re really not fine at all, but we don’t want to say it out loud, we want the man to figure it out by our tone of voice and ask further questions accordingly.

When a woman uses the words “five minutes,” the e-mail says, it’s because she is getting dressed, but the woman doesn’t really mean five minutes, she means half an hour. Except, of course, if the woman tells the man there are “five minutes” left for him to stop watching the football game before he needs to help around the house. In that case, she means what she says. Perhaps some women are like this about time, but I’m not one of them. Usually, if I say I’ll be ready in five minutes, you can expect I’ll take just that long.

No. 3 on the list is one of my favorites. The e-mail says that the word “nothing” is the calm before the storm, meaning the man better be on his toes and arguments that start with “nothing” usually end with “fine.”

I’m certainly guilty of using the word “nothing” when it really is “something.” But more often than not, I say “nothing” as a quick reaction because I’m still trying to decide if what’s bothering me is even worth talking about at all. Saying “nothing” usually buys me some time to process my thoughts so they don’t come out sounding like a crazy mess.

Of course, this word is something many of my male friends say drives them absolutely nuts because it’s obvious something is wrong and they get annoyed at having to ask their woman what’s wrong more than once. But be patient about that one, guys, because maybe your woman thinks the way I do and just needs a moment to think about her feelings before she blurts out something she might regret.

According to the e-mail, “go ahead” is code for “don’t do it.” And if your woman says this with an annoyed tone of voice, that reasoning probably holds true. In that case, “go ahead” is a dare, and you’ll be proceeding at your own risk.

The loud sigh is not a word but a non-verbal statement many women use, sometimes unknowingly. It signals frustration, plain and simple. Of course, when a woman sighs loudly like that, she probably wants you to ask what’s wrong, but whether or not you’ll get a direct answer or a “nothing,” is hard to say.

Another word on the e-mail list was “whatever.” This word shouldn’t be that hard for a man to understand, especially if you factor in the tone of voice associated with the statement. “Whatever” usually means the woman completely disagrees with the man’s behavior or way of thinking, is frustrated, and generally disgusted with the man and wants him to be quiet or go away. “Whatever” means the man is ridiculous and his statements hold no merit in the woman’s mind.

Lastly, if she says, “Don’t worry about it, I got it,” the man could potentially be in trouble again. The e-mail explains that this statement means the woman has told a man to do something several times but is now reluctantly doing it herself. I have to agree. Again, if the woman says this sentence with a tone that resembles disappointment or disgust, then she’s not really OK with the situation. She’s frustrated that the man either hasn’t done what she asked or has failed to figure out what needs to be done on his own.

Now, you might ask, why don’t women just say what we really mean and make it easier on everyone? I wish I had a good answer for that. I’d like to think I fall among the more straightforward types who don’t like to play too many guessing games with my man, but I admit that sometimes I fall back on these very phrases to express myself.

How they become a basic communication language for women all over I also don’t know. It’s not like they teach a class in “the most frustrating ways to express yourself to your man.”

All I know is that women do use these words and will likely continue to use them to express their feelings from time to time. So if you want to avoid even more conflict, it might be a good idea to learn what these little (but powerful) words really mean and develop a game plan to address the situations involved before they escalate.

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