Why is it called cheating?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by NMSquirrel, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    my daughter brought up a question,
    she asked why is it called 'cheating' when not married and called an 'affair' after?

    I argued that's not true, both terms apply(am I wrong?), then I asked why is it called 'cheating' to begin with?

    I post in linguistic in hope of getting some origin story for the word.

    now to cite the dictionarys' definition of it is cheating..
    they tend to put in definitions after it has been defined, iow at some time someone used the word cheating in an infidelity reference that caught on then became a definition of cheating.( once apon a time the definition of 'cheating' did not include marital infidelity)

    so to ask again:
    how does the term 'cheating' apply to marital infidelity? (the term 'marital' used loosely as generic 'relationship')
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  3. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    When one promises exclusive rights of relationship to another, that is a verbal contract, whether it is legitimized through marriage or simply a vow exchanged between two persons.

    As soon as one party contravenes that promise by engaging those rights with another, there is a 'breach of contract'.

    The wronged party has been 'cheated' of the rights they were promised. As with any breach of contract, there are potential injuries that could follow including but not limited to loss of access, misappropriation of funds and resources, transmittable disease and questionable paternity.
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  5. KitemanSA Registered Senior Member

    In my humble opinion, both words apply equally to both cases. But "cheating" typically implies a short dalliance while "affair" typically implies a second (or more) long term relationship.
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  7. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

    In my opinion, using the word 'affair' is just an attempt to legitimize cheating by describing it as 'a matter of the heart, beyond one's control' rather than a willful 'breach of contract'.

    'Cheating' has been used in the context of more than one other partner while 'affair' is frequently used to mean more than one incident with the same 'other person', so I am inclined to agree with your interpretation of this difference in application.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    She's got it backwards. Cheating is adultery: intercourse between two people, at least one of whom is married. The word is also used, more loosely, if at least one participant is in a more-or-less committed relationship without marriage. Normally the word is only applied to the participant who is in a relationship.

    An affair is a committed romance (monogamous, usually including intercourse, and with the reasonable expectation of being long-term) between two people who are not married to anyone. Again, the word is often used loosely, so you will hear people saying, "Bob's wife is having an affair with George, but he denies that it's happening." In this case, of course, there is no reasonable expectation of a future, but there is almost always intercourse.

    As I noted, both words are used rather loosely. But to be precise, only a married person or one in a committed relationship can "cheat. As for "affair," that word is used so often in both cases that it's lost its specific meaning.

    To "cheat" means to break a rule. Generally it refers to sports, gambling games like poker, or parlor games like Scrabble and Monopoly. To "cheat" on your wife means to break your marriage vow, which is considerably more serious than swapping a Scrabble letter when nobody's looking.

    To use "cheat" this way is to demean the seriousness of marriage. However, many of us do that in several different ways all the time, so it's understandable why we use the word now.

    Yes, that's true. Marital infidelity was "adultery," although there were plenty of slang terms for it.

    But even when I was a kid back in the 1950s, it was already used for infidelity to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Premarital sex was not as common then as it is today, so to "cheat" on your girlfriend simply meant to have a date with another girl--or even just to kiss one. One of the most popular songs when I was in high school was "You Cheated."

    We don't use it that way. It might mean a common-law marriage (one with no ceremony and no certificate, but certain rights in some states), or it might mean a committed relationship between two people who are not allowed to be legally married: such as a black husband and a white wife in many states in the 1930s--or two gay people in most of the USA today. But it does not apply to two people who are legally able to become married but have not done so.
  9. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    Emphasis mine

    Cite your source. You're usually spot on with this sort of think but I want to nit pick this one...

    Let's start with the much maligned Wiki:

    Romantic affair
    A romantic affair, also called an affair of the heart, may refer to sexual liaisons among unwed or wedded parties, or to various forms of nonmonogamy. ​

    Emphasis mine

    And move on to thefreedictionary.com:

    af·fair (ə-fâr′)
    1. Something done or to be done; business.
    2. affairs Transactions and other matters of professional or public business: affairs of state.
    a. An occurrence, event, or matter: The senator's death was a tragic affair.
    b. A social function.
    4. An object or a contrivance: Their first car was a ramshackle affair.
    5. A matter of personal concern.
    6. affairs Personal business: get one's affairs in order.
    7. A matter causing public scandal and controversy: the Dreyfus affair.
    8. A romantic and sexual relationship, sometimes one of brief duration, between two people who are not married to each other.​

    Emphasis, again, mine.

    What say ye, Fraggle?
  10. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    I get what the OP's daughter means. 'Cheating' sounds like you're on a wheat-grass juice diet and you have a triple choco donut on the sly. Breaching the marital or even the romantic contract is much more serious than having a donut, or swapping letters at Scrabble as Fraggle said. I suppose even more than a breach of contract 'cheating' is a betrayal of love and trust - a very serious matter indeed. But imagine the rancor a word like 'betray' is going to cause when your partner accuses you of it. So, we have adopted a euphemism: the more innocuous word, 'cheating'.

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    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
  11. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    The answer is so obvious, I am not sure why it was asked in the first place. Cheating is breaking a vow, an affair is a romantic or sexual encounter. Obviously you can only breaking a legal promise when you are married...
  12. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Both are forms of cheating, with the affair worse, because it violates a multilayered contract that goes beyond the contract of dating. The word, "affair", is based on a liberal word game template, that they used to deceive. It spins the worse form of cheating, into a word that sounds like it is softer and legitimate, and not exactly cheating, since it is a day at the fair.

    In other words, even though an affair is a worse breech of contract, those who want to lower moral standards, did not use a harsher word for this worse form of cheating, but a softer word, thereby helping to undermine the contract by creating confusion in terms of the degree of violation.

    For example, say we do this with rape. We will define rape as forced sex, but that only involves sex. If there is violence added to the rape sex, instead of calling this a brutal rape, to make it sound worse, we will call it an affair. We all know the term new definition of affair, means sex and violence, but the word sounds so innocent. This creates calculated confusion and helps to lead people astray.

    The goal of the term affair, was the breakup of traditions, by making the worse breech of contract sound like it is softer. A modern example of this tactic is calling the most expensive healthcare scenario, the affordable care act, to create an image separate from the reality. Someone in linguistics may have a clear head in terms of label versus reality, but the goal is to manipulate the herd who does not know they are being gamed.

    If you were a criminal and wanted your crimes to be more acceptable, you would need to consult with the PC word police. The word racism no longer applies to everyone doing the same thing. By the new definition democrats can't be racists, even if the reality is racism in terms of their actions. Lying is called spin, which sounds like something a child playfully does to get dizzy. If you called lying, lying, people will react, differently.

    The words only change the subjectivity, but do not alter the reality. The trick is to change how people "feel", about a given reality. This can be used to make the innocent appears guilty or the guilty innocent in terms of how the label makes you feel, when you look at the action or person.

    If you look at the Tea Party versus the Occupy Wall Street groups, the reality is the Tea Party breaks almost no laws and even cleans up after itself. But the liberal word play will add worse sounding buzz words to manipulate emotions, so most liberals assume the other way around is real. They will not check the reality data. I would think linguists would act like the police to set the record straight in terms of this word game. Maybe science can help by differentiating reality versus subjective word games to make sure the young people are not being misinformed using the word-spin game.
  13. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Cheating is a sneaky way of winning (scoring a goal, receiving credit, getting something you want) contrary to the rules of the game or enterprise or agreement in which you are participating. Cheating on your diet with a tub of ice cream; cheating in a card game with an extra ace; cheating on an employer with the expense account; cheating on a test with a crib sheet.
    Breaking a promise to your partner in any sort of relationship, in order to gain an advantage over the one who abides by their promise, is cheating - whether it involves sex or gambling or going away for a ski weekend.
    Cheating is usually a misdemeanour rather than a crime: if caught, you are dropped from the tournament, expelled from school or fired from your job.
    Infidelity in marriage - whatever is called - is more serious: it's breach of a formal, legal contract and has legal consequences - all the way up to the death penalty in some societies. It's more serious on the social front, since you have taken vows before you community, and on the personal front, since you have pledged exclusive loyalty to one other person.
    Affaire is a euphemism, used by people who don't take marriage vows too seriously.

    (PS Wellwisher was quicker.)
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    As you've pointed out, there's not a lot of consistency.

    I say: formal authorities, whether human or in print, struggle to explain informal usage, much less regulate it.

    Even the French and Spanish, with their language academies, can only regulate the language in documents produced by the government and the more prestigious institutions who choose to abide by the rules. Slang and foreign words are rampant in colloquial speech and the popular press.

    Oddly, the Germans, whose academy's power has dwindled to the regulation of spelling and punctuation since the Third Reich collapsed, are considerably more careful about adopting neologisms and foreign words than the French- and Spanish-speaking people. They still say Fernsprecher ("distance-talker") and Kraftwagen ("powered vehicle") instead of "telephone" and "automobile" like most of the rest of Europe.

    Huh??? What country do you live in? In the USA, "rape" is forced sex, whether the force is psychological, physical, or chemical. No one here refers to a rape as "an affair." Despite my earlier attempt at a definition of "affair," the one thing that all affairs have in common is mutual consent.

    BTW, I forgot that back in the Bronze Age when I was growing up (a process I never completed), the usual term was "love affair." In those days "love" was often used (very confusingly) as a euphemism for "sex," a word that was seldom heard except to mean "gender." A child born out of wedlock was called a love child.

    Having spent most of my life in government service, I can assure you that the ACA is indeed supposed to be affordable for the citizens, if not for the government. In aggregate, it's supposed to reduce the total cost of health care in the U.S. economy. Whether it will work out that way remains to be seen, but based on the government's performance since Reagan added a new zero to the national debt (a president who miraculously is still regarded as "conservative"), it's obviously unlikely.

    Yes, we've all read 1984. Orwell tried to make the point that the populace falls for these tricks, but in reality we're a lot harder to fool than the people who populate his book. Especially after a large segment of the planet's population have already experienced the linguistic machinations of the USSR, the Third Reich and the PRC. Even the U.S. government after the Generation Gap, although it's hardly in a class with those other offenders.

    "Spin" is not outright lying. Everyone presumes that the people they're talking to are smart enough to catch it. Spin is the imposition of bias, such as presenting examples of a phenomenon that seem to illustrate your point. Yet you must also present at least a few that contradict you or your audience will, indeed, see that you are probably lying.

    Conservatives are just as clever at this game. After all, it is they who redefined the anti-abortion movement as "pro-life," even though refusal to perform an abortion, in some cases, will kill the mother; and the pro-abortion movement as "pro-choice," even though the fetus is not given a choice.

    Linguists are human too. They differ politically from one another as much as any other demographic.

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