Had a date last night at the Union. Girl came by, said she needed a beer ASAP. I offered to get her one at the bowling alley, but she said she wanted to sit down and text first. I sat down and she sat behind me to text. Odd. 10 minutes later I turned around (yes, I had been focused for 10 minutes thinking she was evaluating my study heat) and she was gone. She texted later that she'd be right back, she ran off to get a beer. Four hours later she texted that she left because I said “jerking off.”
Here was the actual conversation:
Girl: Hi! I need a beer!
[We walk to my table.]
Girl: Why are you on campus?
CSH: Because it helps me focus and keep working. If I go home, I'll end up jerking off and getting nothing done.
Surely, most native-born Americans know that jerk is one of those words with broad meaning and often used in exclamations, like fuck, shit, and piss. I think fuck is the winner in the broadness category.
So I’m going to send her this text:
If I say I am jerking around, it does not mean that I am masturbating while wandering around a room, nor am I having an epileptic seizure. And if I say that I am fucking off, I am not raping people, nor am I fucking them so hard that they appear to launching. Similarly, if I say, “You’re talking bullshit,” I do not mean that your mouth is like an anus and your words like feces. But you could take these idioms that way. It is consistent with the meaning of the words, taken in isolation. But if you do, I’d say you were looking hard for insult.
I stay on campus because it helps me focus and keep working. If I go home, I'll end up jerking off and getting nothing done.
Given the obvious context, the chance that jerking off here means procrastinating is at least 95%; masturbating, 3%; dancing, 1%; seizure, 0.01%; and attacking people by shaking them, 0.001%. (Which leaves other at 0.989%.) Why pick one of the least likely (given the context) interpretations?
Update: She called to apologize three days later. She made the whole thing up, she said. “I was offended that you sat back down and faced your computer,” she said.