What does hooking up even mean?

Rihanna has called us out on London’s favourite sexual euphemism

Sex is couched in euphemisms. There is the base ‘system’ (everyone gets a bit lost after two); there are frat boy phrases that suggest our squeamishness about the whole rigmarole. And there is the convenient vagueness of “hooking up”.

“Hooking up” can designate anything from snogging to shagging – it swerves definition. It’s a neat way of talking about sex in polite company; it’s a neat way of sounding more coy than you were last night when you were hooking up. Increasingly, it’s London’s favourite way to get down. Whatever down means.

Now, however, Rihanna has called us on it. During an appearance on the Ellen de Generes show, the popstar played a game of Never Have I Ever with honeyed actor George Clooney. Rihanna’s texted a nude selfie – though Clooney hasn’t – she’s been drunk before noon (she does what she likes). She’s seen a rapper naked (George hasn’t); she’s sent a naughty text to the wrong person (of course you have, you scamp). But she doesn’t know about hooking up.

Ellen asked if she’d ever hooked up in the back of a car. “What’s hooking up – that’s such a broad term?” she protests. “People have such different explanations. Some people think hooking up is making out, some people think it’s linking out – so, ‘meet me out somewhere’ – and some people think hooking up is sealed the deal, licked the envelope and closed it. But I don’t know which one is [right].”

The phrase will endure – London prefers to do its dating undercover of dating apps and coy late night texts. But it awakens the debate you’ve had with every friend who you’re convinced is holding out on details. “WAIT DID YOU SLEEP WITH HIM OR NOT???” you WhatsApp furiously on the Friday morning after their Tinder date, just before you go underground; “what do you mean, ‘hooking up’ – are you guys a thing or not?” you ask, frustrated, over a pint, not even caring much any more.

And have you ever hooked up in the back of a car?