No matter how gargantuan a woman's backside becomes, when she asks for an opinion on its size, you always tell her it's small. If it's abundantly clear her body mass index is teetering towards the 'morbidly obese/death by coronary' line, you might throw in adjectives like 'curvy' or 'cuddly'. But at no point do you say: "My god you lumpant beast. I didn't realise hippo was on tonight's dinner menu."
This culture of 'little white lies', which works so effectively to save people's feelings, is also widely used on the dating scene. So what do these relationship clichés really mean? And what should you do when you hear them?
What he says: "I really like you but I'm not looking for a relationship at the moment, can we keep it casual?"
What he means: "I don't like you. But I wouldn't mind sticking my widgy in you until something better comes along."
What to do: If you're quite convinced your feelings towards this gentleman remain as inconsequential as his towards you, then please, feel free to explore the realms of casual bonking with gay abandon. But don't agree because you think it'll be the start of a blossoming romance filled with candyfloss flavoured rainbows of eternal joy. "He's bound to fall for me if I give it time," I hear you bleat. No. He isn't. So if you don't want to spend the rest of your life weeping into your pillow playing Adele's Someone Like You on repeat, I suggest you strap on a pair and tell him where to stick it.
What she says: I really like you but I'm not sure there's any chemistry
What she means: You're really nice to me but much too fugly/needy/clingy. I'm going to find myself a self obsessed playboy with a chiselled jaw and rampant sex drive to butcher my pretty little heart into mulch. Then I'll spend the next six months moaning about the fact there's no nice men.
What to do: There's not much you can do. She doesn't fancy you. Instead of moping, cheer yourself up with a night out on the tiles. Your mates will happily jeer insults at you whilst you down dirty pints and try not to sob in public. It'll be great.
What he says: "I'm sorry I haven't called but (insert generic excuse here)"
What he means: "The other girl I was seeing dumped me."
What to do: Want to find out if he's in the 1% of men with a genuine excuse for a three week phone call hiatus? Be upfront. Women are so scared to be branded 'bunny boiler' they'll merrily traipse after a man for six months pretending they're 'cool' with the casual thing. But if you're secretly envisaging what your wedding invites would look like, it might be a good idea to confess you like him. (Don't tell him about the wedding though. He'll think you're a giant can of uncontrollable crazy and, quite understandably, will run far away.)
What she says: "I love that you're so easygoing but I'm really looking for an ambitious man."
What she means: "You don't make enough money"
What to do: Say: "That's a shame, I really liked you and I'd hoped this could really go somewhere." Then casually mention your family's aristocratic roots and that castle you own in the Scottish highlands. When she calls to 'make up', pretend you're too busy hunting with Prince Wills to catch up.
What they say: "There's plenty more fish in the sea"
What they mean: "Your endless relationship drivel is boring me senseless. Get over it."
What to do: When you're nursing the remains of a shattered heart with a vat of vodka infused wine, this well meaning phrase is more painful than a Hollywood wax. And to be honest, a good friend should never say it. (Even after you've defended your ex boyfriend's 'accidental banging of the large breasted secretary" for the 27th time that evening.) Down the remaining alcohol, scream "But I wanted THAT FISH!" in a suitably hysterical manner and go find somebody who'll bake you a cake. Like your mum.