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Hang out

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 23, 2008 at 18:15

In Reply to: Hang out posted by Steve on October 23, 2008 at 10:43:

: I just encountered a person asking me if I'd like to "Hang out" sometime. I know the implication, but how did "Hang out" evolve as a euphemism for spending time together?

It has been used in close to its present meaning for quite a while. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a use as early as 1846 and many times thereafter meaning to frequent a certain place (hang out at such and such a saloon or place of business, etc.) or to associate or spend time (hang out) with such and such a person or group of people.

It may come from "hang together," in the sense of adhere, either physically or figuratively (his arguemets don't hang together; these two pieces of machinery don't hang together), as also signifying adherence to a group. As someone once said, "You know, Franklin, we must all hang together in this matter," to which Benjamin Franklin famously replied, "Yes, or we shall assuredly all hang separately!" This meaning of hang together, that is, adhere, or cohere (not the sense of be hanged on the gallows) dates from before Shakespeare, who also used it.

One should also mention "hang around," which has two senses, one relevant, the other not. You can hang around a place by frequenting it ("He likes to hang around the pool hall"; or you can hang around a person or group, as in, "I don't like the kind of people he hangs around with." "Hang around" in this sense is simila;r to "hang out." "He likes to hang out at the pool hall. It's probably because he likes to hang out with the kind of people he finds there."

The other sense is to stay, to delay one's departure. "Why are you still hanging around?"

As you no doubt know, the laws of slang have dictated that "hang out" and "hang around" should sometimes be shortened to just "hang." ("I'd like to hang with you for a while.")