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I am writing a blog tentatively titled "Particle Filters: Groping in the Dark for Robots". It struck me that groping has a strong sexual connotation too, so I researched if the idiom groping in the dark also has a negative connotation too. I asked an editor friend and she suggested changing the title because non-native speakers who are more familiar with groping (in the sexual sense) and may not be familiar with the other meaning of cluelessnes may take offence to the title.

I would like to understand if there are any such connotations in modern usage and whether using the title has even the slightest chance of being offensive.

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    "Groping in the dark" is a long-established idiom for "aimlessly grasping for something, literally or figuratively. It could be used (with a wink) to imply something sexual, or it could be misinterpreted by someone not familiar with the argot to imply something sexual, but it is not (in the US, at least) a term one must avoid in general writing or speaking, where context might not imply a sexual meaning. After all, probably about 20% of English words might be used with a sexual connotation. – Hot Licks Apr 6 at 12:33
  • @HotLicks please convert your comment to an answer, I will accept it. – farhanhubble Apr 6 at 14:08
  • @HotLicks Or more? – Tuffy Apr 6 at 21:44
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"Groping in the dark" is a long-established idiom for "aimlessly grasping for something", literally or figuratively. It could be used (with a wink) to imply something sexual, or it could be misinterpreted by someone not familiar with the vernacular to imply something sexual, but it is not (in the US, at least) a term one must avoid in general writing or speaking, where context might not imply a sexual meaning. After all, probably about 20% of English words might be used with a sexual connotation.

  • Yes, but are you sure the groper is grasping for something ‘aimlessly? Perhaps ‘feeling your way in the dark’, gets the point without the unwanted potential for misunderstanding. Now ‘groping in broad daylight’ might really give the wrong impression! – Tuffy Apr 6 at 21:50
  • @Tuffy - While in the literal sense the groper may be moving methodically, the sense of the idiom is "aimlessly". When you lose something the floor of your car while driving and you reach for it, the idiom does not apply until you can't find it in the obvious places. – Hot Licks Apr 6 at 21:54
  • For the car floor groping, I should say ‘blindly’ - the police officer who scrapes my car off the central reservation might say ‘recklessly’! – Tuffy Apr 6 at 21:59
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Groping someone (no preposition) can have a sexual meaning; it generally implies unwanted sexual touching. However, we can innocently grope, in literal or figurative darkness, for a sought thing, solution, answer, pathway, etc.

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