mess with

Discussion in 'English Only' started by NickJunior, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. NickJunior Senior Member

    Amérique du Nord
    I heard this sentence from an unhappy child:

    "He messes with me."

    Does the term mess with mean that the other child make him dirty?
  2. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "Mess" has several meaning. Here, I would guess that "mess" here means to interfere with someone in an annoying manner.
  3. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Child: "Give me back my book - you've no right to take it!"
    Bully: "Don't be such a sissy - I'm just messing with you"

    Child: "Why do you call me an idiot? I'm a straight "A" student!"
    Bully: "I know that - I'm just messing with your mind"

    To "mess with" in these contexts means to tease, annoy, antagonize, bully, etc. It doesn't mean to make the other child dirty.
  4. redgiant Senior Member

    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Hi, what do you think about replacing "messes with the group dynamic" with "messes up the group dynamic"? " Do they both mean muddling the group dynamic?

    : Penny: I thought that I wanted this offensively stereotypical gay guy, but it's too much. I mean, I feel like it messes with the group dynamic.

    Source: Happy Endings

    Background: Penny found a new flamboyant homosexual friend to hang out with in a platonic fashion. She let him join her group of friends, but after a while, she felt the guy was getting too crazy and offensive for her liking. In this scene, she confessed to her friends that she was going to ditch him because he wasn't doing the group any good.
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    Why would you want to mix an informal verb like "messes" with a stiff, formal and rather jargonistic term like "group dynamic?"
  6. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    (The source text did that, it's not redgiant's fault.)

    I think messing up is more necessarily negative than messing with. If you mess with someone's computer, maybe that means you tinkered around with it a bit but didn't change much; if you mess up their computer, it means you harmed it in some way. In your quoted context, though, messes with does come across as negative, so I don't think replacing one with the other would change the meaning very much.

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