The fact that people use language in quite different ways and to mean different things has been discussed over the past 500 years or more, across several disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, sociology and linguistics. More recently it has been suggested that there are clear differences in the way men and women use language: the same words can have quite distinct meanings according to the gender of the speaker and the listener. If so, this could have serious implications for market research: we know what people say, but what exactly do they mean? Our exploratory study used ethnographic techniques to examine the different ways in which men and women conversed, and the conversational strategies they employed. We suggest that there are clear differences, although we find that age and social class may also have a bearing on how we use language socially.