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People Watching term
Trying to find the right word
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2013/04/22
9:03pm
MacCycling
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I was discussing a particular unknown term with someone in trying to figure out said term.
The description that I will give to aid in finding this term(official or slang) is as follows:
Observing people in everyday life and giving them a fictional background or story that might hold some basis given the context clues of how they hold themselves, their facial expressions when they talk, their facial expressions when they do not talk, how they act around other people, the way they dress or “do themselves up”. In other words, having a one-sided connection with a stranger and creating a character through that connection.
I hope that does not sound as creepy as it looks.
Thank you

2013/04/23
2:27pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Greetings MacCycling. and welcome to the forum.

Psychologists have an official term for that practice: projection. Although in that sense, it’s usually negative attributes we “project” into strangers.

Not “creepy” at all … I’m pretty sure we all do that. Beyond projection I might suggest empathy, attribution (also from psychology), reading (the psychic type), or maybe even character creation or fantasy. Not sure if this answers your question, but it’s a start. Hopefully more forum members will jump into this thread.

 

2013/04/23
8:41pm
MacCycling
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Thank you for the response and the welcome.

 

I found this helpful. So, I sent it to my friend and they were not quite satisfied; though, they said it helped.

So, I asked them for their description and they gave me this:

The wonder you have for complete strangers. You watch them and observe them as they go about their lives and understand that even though you are not really playing a part in their life, yet you are there. You are a part of their “story” because you are simply present and you wonder what their story is. . .

 

Not sure if that flipped my first post upside down or if it just made it more confusing.  

2013/04/24
3:10am
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I am not sure there is one term, but a combination of voyeurism and conjecture should be close to what you seek. Looking up synonyms of those might help.

2013/04/24
9:06am
Glenn
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Here is a great New York Times article on related topics. They call it “window watching.” While this term isn’t fully explanatory, it is sufficiently evocative of what you are describing. The article focuses on actual windows, but doesn’t limit the term to transfenestral observations.

Window Watching (NY Times)

I like “consequential stranger” to describe the object of the musings. I also suspect the book mentioned, Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places (Morrill) will have some more clinical terms and distinctions for you. It sounds just interesting enough for me to pick up a copy, too.

2013/04/26
7:44am
Raffee
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To me, that’s simply ‘curiosity’ that may or may not be caused by ‘identification’. I’ve experienced this before. There were times that I was away from TV or didn’t watch because of some reason. And even sometimes I would see some scenes of a movie or something and I would say, “Who on earth watches that?” But after a while I happened to see a longer scene of it and felt how curious I was to see what would happen next.  

2013/04/26
4:13pm
RobertB
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MacCycling said
I hope that does not sound as creepy as it looks.

Don’t mean to quibble about English in the middle of an interesting discussion, but that sounds off somehow, no?  Somehow indeterminate, as though somewhere in there something is still creepy  though the intention seems to be for all to be well and good though in the end who knows because the intention could be to sound just like how it sounds, no?

2013/04/28
2:18pm
Robert
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Glenn, thanks for the article.  
At one time I liked to park in mid downtown before work to watch people hustling to work. It’s an immensely engrossing movie. Only lucky didn’t get arrested.
2013/04/29
2:41pm
MacCycling
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So, my friend found the word “sonder” to describe what was originally posted. Does anyone have any experience hearing that word around their group of friends or using that term yourself? And where it might have derived from. Just curious. I have never heard of it; though, I really like it.

2013/04/30
1:04pm
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If I were asked cold with a multiple choice definition of sonder this is the one I would have picked–not the definition posed in this thread. (In finding the linked definition, I did find about the same number of links for it as for the definition posed here.)

2013/05/01
1:51am
RobertB
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There needs to be usage to some degree of regularity for a word to be a word. Is there some of this one?

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