Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What's your evil?
April 29, 2010 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I should be able to let things like this go, I know, but a Facebook friend wrote a status update containing a phrase I've never heard, and not knowing what she meant is driving me nuts. I'm 44 and the opposite of "street." She's in her 20s -- a hip New Yorker. This sort of thing happens to me all the time, but usually googling or Urban Dictionary helps me. Not this time. So, is this a real phrase or is it some quirky thing she made up: "What's your evil?"

I've asked her about it, but she just "answers" by teasing me and making jokes. Maybe it doesn't mean anything and my questions embarrassed her. In any case, here's the context, with details changed to protect her identity:

"So a very charming man tries to pick me ... We talked for a while then he hands me his card. I glance at it and see he is a male model. I then asked him what his evil was. 'dinner with me tonight?' I said thanks for the foresight. 'evil & dinner in the same sentence sounds promising' ... Card in garbage ... Ladies if it seems too good to be true it usually is."

From the context, I'm guessing it means "What's your angle?" or "Go ahead: let me hear the worst..." But I'm not sure. (I also don't get why a cute guy asking her out for dinner is a bad thing, but that's a different question.)

If you happen to know what the phrase means, do you also happen to know its origin?
posted by grumblebee to Society & Culture (48 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sounds like she was using it to mean "what are your designs for me," "what did you have in mind," "what are you hoping for," "what do you want out of me" or something to that effect.

One could use "what's your poison?" the same way, simply to ask about a preference - not only in drink, but in activity.
posted by jardinier at 5:33 PM on April 29, 2010


It sounds more like a riff on "What's your poison?" (ie, what alcoholic drink do you want?). "What sort of vice would you like to get into?" Something like that.
posted by frobozz at 5:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would think it meant "what's your evil plan" or "evil plot".
posted by iconomy at 5:48 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


'evil & dinner in the same sentence sounds promising'

It wasn't in the same sentence until she put them there. I'm confused. He offered dinner, not dinner and evil. And using her logic...dinner WAS the evil.
posted by ian1977 at 5:51 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm having trouble figuring out who said what in 'dinner with me tonight?' I said thanks for the foresight. 'evil & dinner in the same sentence sounds promising'
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:55 PM on April 29, 2010


These phrases have to start somewhere...
posted by teedee2000 at 5:56 PM on April 29, 2010


All I can say is that confused me, too.
posted by grumblebee at 5:56 PM on April 29, 2010


It could just be: What's the catch? Maybe she picked up on something off about the guy from seeing his card or getting a dinner invitation that she didn't convey well in the story.
posted by pecknpah at 5:58 PM on April 29, 2010


A couple of mentions of "What is your evil?" as it relates to Nietzsche make sense here as well. 1 2
posted by iconomy at 5:59 PM on April 29, 2010


Seconding abbreviated from "evil plan".
posted by smoke at 6:16 PM on April 29, 2010


I suspect she's just being nonsensically slangy and trying to sound cool. From context, she means "what are your evil plans." It isn't actually a Buffy quote, but it sounds kind of inspired by the sort of sensemaking-in-context-but-not-really sort of slang that Joss made up for Buffy.

And won't "tell you what it means" because she knows that this will drive you absofuckinglutely batty.
posted by desuetude at 6:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, I'm getting the impression that it's not a well-known phrase. Everyone is making guesses. They are all guesses that make sense, but guesses none-the-less.
posted by grumblebee at 6:20 PM on April 29, 2010


20s New Yorker here ... I have never heard anyone use this phrase, in person, in music, or in writing.

This sounds like the sort of thing someone with an ... interesting, intense, and/or non-mainstream kind of spirituality would say. I could see a new-Agey or fringe Christian type of person saying something like this. I would guess it had more to do with something like that than having to do with some kind of hip lingo.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2010


If someone asked me what my "evil" was, and I didn't know what to respond with because that is not a question that makes sense, so I offered to take her out to dinner instead of addressing her weirdness directly, and she threw my card in the garbage as a result... I would think I dodged a bullet.
posted by Menthol at 6:44 PM on April 29, 2010 [22 favorites]


I've never heard that, but I would interpret it as "what's your vice?" (what evil are you susceptible to?) as a flirty line, expecting an answer like "pretty ladies".
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:57 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Its not that you're not hip or missing out on the kids' modern slang. Under no circumstances does that story make sense; it is nonsensical and badly told and you are not actually not getting it.

Honestly it sounds like something a lame friend would make up; cf. "that's so fetch."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:26 PM on April 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


Honestly it sounds like something a lame friend would make up; cf. "that's so fetch."

Yeah, I was hearing a sort of "what's your damage/what's the sitch" mashup.
posted by desuetude at 7:39 PM on April 29, 2010


I suspect she's just being nonsensically slangy and trying to sound cool.

This I agree with. But my interpretation of the meaning is meaner:

I glance at [his card] and see he is a male model

Male models are evil. Not in any particular way, but in general and with variety. So, she wonders,

I then asked him what his evil was.

What variation of evil does this Male Model constitute? (in a grammar wrong fucked we way, you know.)

I draw these conclusions based on the fact that she trashed his card afterwards and posted jokingly about it on Facebook.
posted by carsonb at 7:42 PM on April 29, 2010


It's definitely something recently made-up. Like my phrase for oral sex is a "Brooklyn Perfetti." Reason: Because while searching for images on google for the Italian gum company, I saw an image of a woman giving oral sex on a man. Ran it as a joke. Looks like someone gives great brooklyn perfettis...
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:49 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this story never actually happened, or is at least highly embellished. She's trying to be mysterious and make it sound like this hot, charming guy wanted her, but she turned him down because of some brilliant insight she had and she's too smart to fall for his charms. You fell for her schtick hook, line, and sinker.

The fact that she wouldn't even answer your question, instead being all coy about it and teasing you, driving you crazy enough to ask this on Metafilter, further convinces me this is the case. She's just trying to manipulate people - she wants all the guys to think guys want her, and she wants all the girls to think she's worldly and wise. "What's your evil" doesn't mean crap.

I am a woman, and women like that drive me crazy.
posted by wondermouse at 7:53 PM on April 29, 2010 [25 favorites]


I'm afraid your friend is streets ahead of you, grumblebee.
posted by dorisfromregopark at 8:00 PM on April 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Okay, she's my FB friend too, and I'm just as confused as grumblebee. But I did want to bring up something he left out in case it has any significance. She made the remark about "evil" after he specified he was a Calvin Klein model. I know it's a long shot, but are there any CK ads that maybe have something "evil" going on?
posted by Evangeline at 8:01 PM on April 29, 2010


Um... this is a no brainer . Froboz is absolutely correct. Perhaps it's an English english thing... but as an Australian, I know exactly what it means. It's asking what someone's poison is. I.e. their drink or vice.

I'm sure it's just a regional thing. I can't imagine an Australian or a Pom having any difficulty with this.
posted by taff at 8:24 PM on April 29, 2010


You fell for her schtick hook, line, and sinker. ...she wants all the guys to think guys want her

Well, if I fell for her schtick, I doubt it was in the way she wanted. The problem is that said schtick met my Aspergers-ish brain and now all I can think of are linguistic matters. Had she not written the "evil" phrase, I might have spared a thought for her allure, but now I really don't care if she's fetching or repellent. Nor do I care if the story is real or fake. I have zeroed in on "what is your evil?" and that's the only thing that interests me.

So I guess if her goal was to make me puzzle over that then, yeah, she wins.
posted by grumblebee at 8:24 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


as an Australian, I know exactly what it means. It's asking what someone's poison is. I.e. their drink or vice.

Are you saying that this is a common saying in Australia? Or are you just saying that even though you never heard it before, you had no trouble figuring out what it meant by context?

Because I can do that, too. "What's your poison?" is definitely a possibility. But where did she get her particular version of that phrase from? A TV show? A pop song? a movie?

Did she just make it up?
posted by grumblebee at 8:27 PM on April 29, 2010


I'm sure it's just a regional thing. I can't imagine an Australian or a Pom having any difficulty with this.

At first glance it seems simple enough, even to us idiot Americans, but it gets a little more complicated when she says something to him about how he used the word "evil" and offered her dinner in the same sentence.
posted by Evangeline at 8:30 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


20s New Yorker. Never heard it. Would assume, like others, that it was short for "evil plan".
posted by amicamentis at 8:32 PM on April 29, 2010


Could be that she just forgot a word after 'evil' and she was embarrassed because it looked like you were calling her out on it?
posted by amicamentis at 8:35 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty confident that the friend is a bit of an idiot... but it's all pretty clear to me. I can't remember a specific incident with those turns of phrase... but it's something I would have said in my younger, stupider, flirtier days. Word for word, probably. Except I may not have thrown the card in the bin. Silly girl.
posted by taff at 8:51 PM on April 29, 2010


I can think of many reasons why a sophisticated girl in NYC would not want to date a male model-- they're known for being dumb, semi-slutty players who don't treat girls well.
posted by alicetiara at 9:10 PM on April 29, 2010


Apparently there is a Kelly Clarkson song that has "So what's your evil attitude" in the lyrics.

But you're also trying to guess at linguistics or meaning of a specific turn of phrase, from someone that really clearly doesn't have a grasp on the following:
a) grammar
b) social cues
c) storytelling
d) rhetoric

So, I think the answer is that "What's your evil" isn't part of some well known hip new phrase. But it's an easy enough phrase to parse, and folks use funny little switches like that all the time. You've just honed in on one that sticks out, but they're all over the place.
posted by barnone at 9:23 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


what's your evil? good question, though on some levels incomprehensible
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:37 PM on April 29, 2010


But where did she get her particular version of that phrase from? A TV show? A pop song? a movie?

If it were, surely it would be in The Google. It is not.
posted by desuetude at 9:44 PM on April 29, 2010


Parsing hipster-ese is a lot like learning to read poetry (though certainly less rewarding): it's a trick of letting go of your literalist urges and feeling the tone and emotion and intent of the language. If you get it wrong--well, plenty of us do, even the hipster-types.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine an Australian or a Pom having any difficulty with this.

... maybe just Australians? Two late-twenties English people here, both looked and went umm, it's sort of like 'what's your poison?' but ... not. So either someone's trying to be clever or they're talking about something else.
posted by Lebannen at 6:24 AM on April 30, 2010


InterestedInKnowing said:
"It's definitely something recently made-up. Like my phrase for oral sex is a "Brooklyn Perfetti." Reason: Because while searching for images on google for the Italian gum company, I saw an image of a woman giving oral sex on a man. Ran it as a joke. Looks like someone gives great brooklyn perfettis..."

That's no good. Everything you search for on google image search results in an image of a woman giving a man a blow job. Hieroglyphics, a single letter of the alphabet, Yeni love song, all = image of a woman giving a man a blow job.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:30 AM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My $0.02: she thought, for whatever reason, that this man who approached her would be more of a good time than just dinner and drinks. So she asked him what his "evil" was, i.e.: how much of a bad boy are you? When he responded "dinner", (i.e.: boring, and not "bad boy" enough for her tastes) she was disappointed, and threw his card away.
posted by LN at 6:32 AM on April 30, 2010


Is the "man tries to pick me..." part verbatim too? Because the common version of that is, of course, "pick me up." If she dropped the "up" as well as whatever "evil" is modifying, then that may either be her stylistic quirk, or she types too fast and leaves out words.
posted by xo at 6:33 AM on April 30, 2010


The speculation is fun. So please keep it up if you wish. But I thank you all for convincing me that she wasn't using a phrase that I'm too square to know about. She made a typo or she was coining something herself. It's possible that she didn't coin it. Maybe it's a phrased used by some obscure social group that she's a part of, but it's clearly not a common phrase.

And I do think I embarrassed her (sorry), so I doubt she'll explain.
posted by grumblebee at 7:23 AM on April 30, 2010


To me it feels obvious it was slang for "What's your story? What's up? What nefarious plans might you have afoot?" Being coy & flirtatious.
posted by Windigo at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2010


After I turned 40 I decided that I did not have time to keep up with the hipster lingo. I also decided that the one who initiates communication carries the responsibility to make the message intelligible to the receiver. I will deadpan and ask for a rephrase in plain language, giving them another chance to achieve their communication goals. If they fail again, it's their fail, not mine.

My life is such that I am around a lot of teenagers, young adults, and other whippersnappers. I embrace my old fogey status. Any attempts to make me feel like an outsider by throwing insider lingo at me just bounce off my doughy middle-aged body and plop to the floor. I simply don't have the time.
posted by cross_impact at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm Australian and I've never heard anyone use the word "evil" this way.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:10 AM on April 30, 2010


To me it feels obvious it was slang for "What's your story? What's up? What nefarious plans might you have afoot?" Being coy & flirtatious.

I would think that too, but if that was the case, her reaction was rather severe. The charming Calvin Klein model merely replied that he wanted to take her to dinner. She reacted by deciding he gave her a glimpse into his evil plans with her, throwing his business card in the garbage, and offering advice to all the ladies on Facebook.
posted by wondermouse at 9:50 AM on April 30, 2010


True, Wondermouse...but I think her response was show-off. I think the message, stripped down, basically reads as:

"This guy charming approached me. We talked a while and then he gives me his card. I read it and see that he is a male model. I ask him what he had in mind, coyly wording it as "What is your evil?" and he responds, "Dinner and a movie?" I thanked him for tipping me off to his nature when he said that "dinner and evil in the same sentence sound promising." I ended up tossing his card because if it sounds too smooth and good to be true, it usually is."

So yeah, I think she was showing off how breezily cool and sophisticated she is; courting charming models so often she knows which ones to bypass.
posted by Windigo at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2010


CHARMING GUY, not guy charming. Doh.
posted by Windigo at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2010


Ah, your reading makes some sense to me, Windigo. One of the things that confused me is that she STARTS by saying he tried to pick her up. But maybe that was actually her later interpretation, AFTER he made the "dinner" remark.

Looked at that way, the story goes something like this: I met a (seemingly) nice guy in a totally platonic circumstance. He gave me his business card. When I saw he was a model (and realized that he wanted me to know he was a model, even though I'm not an agent or a photographer), I started to get suspicious, thinking maybe he had things on his mind besides business. So I asked, "What's your angle, here?"

He said, "You and me having dinner together."

Yeah! Right! Thanks for the warning, dude. Since I now knew that he was trying to pick me up, rather than advertising some sort of business or trying to hire me to do something for him, I threw his card in the trash.


I still can't make any sense of the "evil and dinner in the same sentence" part, because she said "evil" and he said "dinner," but I don't think that's explainable without more information.
posted by grumblebee at 1:29 PM on April 30, 2010


I still can't make any sense of the "evil and dinner in the same sentence" part, because she said "evil" and he said "dinner,"

Oh, I got that part fine. See, you're interpreting "sentence" as a grammatical sentence like a normal person. He's trying too hard to be all hurf-durf-pick-up-line and eliding her question and his answer into one "sentence" meaning something more like "one exchange."

Together they have joined evil and dinner conceptually, and thus he's going to go ahead and take "evil" the way HE wants to. Mrrrowr. (Ugh.)
posted by desuetude at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2010


Whatever the correct answer is...I think we can all be thankful that they didn't in fact have evil+dinner and unleash their brood of handsome but confusing and needy children upon the world.
posted by ian1977 at 3:03 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


« Older MLA Citation Filter: How to ci...   |  How can I backup/view/print te... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.