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What's the difference in AE between saying "I like to associate with new folks" and "I like to socialize with new folks"?

E.g.

I am a positive person and I like to associate with other positive persons. source

I like to socialize with new people. source

I like to associate with people on the same term as I do in my own country. source

I like to socialize with my dog, and I have a cat... source

I like to associate with other people. source

If it all means pretty much the same, is there one of these expressions that sounds more typical of AE than other English dialects?

  • You should probably avoid associate, because with no other context, "He associates with them" will invariably be taken to imply that "they" are a bad lot, and that "he" would be better off steering well clear of them. – FumbleFingers Mar 8 '14 at 20:37
  • @FumbleFingers: The negative connotation is only true if "them" is left as an ambiguous (or explicitly negative) entity. "He associates with the wealthy", for instance, isn't implying that the wealthy are a bad lot. – MrHen Mar 25 '14 at 16:14
  • @MrHen: Compare Google Books totals for he associates/d with the right.../good.../etc. to he associated with the wrong/bad.../etc.. All other things being equal, you'll find there are far more instances of "associate with X" where X has clearly negative connotations. You may feel differently, but to me that definitely "taints" this particular construction. – FumbleFingers Mar 25 '14 at 19:03
  • @FumbleFingers: My point is that there are exceptions to the general rule you have (correctly) identified. Namely, this rule does not inherently override what would normally be a positive connotation (e.g., the wealthy, the intelligent). Or, to say this another way, I am identifying a common case where all other things are explicitly not equal. :) – MrHen Mar 25 '14 at 19:24
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    @FumbleFingers: Correct. I was adding information; not disagreeing with you. – MrHen Mar 25 '14 at 21:02
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The specific dictionary entries show that "associate" completely encompasses "socialize", so you can use them interchangeably without fear of being misunderstood:

socialize — take part in social activities: to take part in social activities, or behave in a friendly way to others

associate

  1. connect things in mind: to connect one thing with another in the mind
  2. pass time with somebody: to spend time together with somebody
  3. mix socially or professionally: to be involved with somebody or something in a personal or professional capacity

But "associate" and "socialize" do carry slightly different connotations due to associate's first definition. When describing someone who associates with a particular group of people the connotation is that they are "associated with" that group:

I want to be associated with intelligent people. / I want to associate with intelligent people.

I want to be with intelligent people. / I want to socialize with intelligent people.

This difference is subtle, but here is how it effects two of your specific examples:

I am a positive person and I like to associate with other positive persons.

This person wants to be around and be associated with positive people.

I like to socialize with new people.

This person likes to be with new people. You could use "associate" here and it would have the exact same meaning -- it is unlikely you could really be associated with new people.

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I think in AE the term that fits all of the examples is hang-out. You can just use hang but that is getting into slang territory.

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    Wot? And "hang-out" isn't slang? (Where did that hyphen come from, btw?) – FumbleFingers Mar 8 '14 at 20:38
  • @FumbleFingers - I can't put the hyphen in there? I like the hyphen in this context. Hangout being a place, hang out (physically hand something out), hang-out being to gather or socialize. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 8 '14 at 20:41
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    I've certainly never seen the verb form hyphenated. Why would you "like" it? I find it hard to believe you're used to seeing it written like that. I never heard of anyone using hang out to mean hand out, either. A long time ago the noun was hyphenated - hang-out being a place where people would hang out. – FumbleFingers Mar 8 '14 at 20:51
  • @F Well I see it written both ways. I prefer the hyphen when the words go together but I understand both. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 8 '14 at 20:58
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    No, it's not "regional or AE". It's a perfectly common usage, and even my 93-year-old British father is quite capable of saying to me "Didn't you used to hang out with so-and-so?". But the fact that you hear and say it has no bearing on what I'm questioning - the hyphen in the written form when used as a verb. – FumbleFingers Mar 9 '14 at 13:00

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