Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Reblogged:Pet Peeve Officially Identified as Rude

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

The article is poorly titled -- "People With 'Poor Speech Etiquette' Always Use These 7 'Rude' Phrases, Says Public Speaking Expert" (always? really?) -- but it has merit.

The piece is a list of what I long ago mentally filed as verbal tics. These are phrases and forms of expression (including intonations like fry register and verbal question marks) that somehow become popular and that drive me crazy, especially when I have to deal with people who are prone to them.

In any event, the popular press occasionally notices these and ticks them off, with the article under discussion being the latest I've encountered.

First on the list is something that seems to be on the decline already, but I'd love to see disappear altogether:
Image by Jon Tyson, via Unsplash, license.
1. "Do you want to ...?"

This phrase is great when you're offering someone a choice ("Do you want to go to lunch with me?"). But as a way of delivering orders ("Do you want to take out the trash?"), its indirect fake-politeness comes across as belittling.

What to say instead: State your request directly. It's courteous to broach a request by asking, "Will you do me a favor?" After all, people generally like to pitch in. But they don't like to feel manipulated. [bold in original]
Every time someone does this, I have to fight the temptation to make a witty or sarcastic reply: And I have yielded on several occasions when I thought it might help the other person become aware of how badly this lands when they do it.

I am glad to see articles like this appear from time to time: Popular culture has a way of normalizing things like this that many people are susceptible to (or simply don't notice since "everyone's doing it") and then adopt as habits, causing them to stick out like sore thumbs once the fad has died down.

But this habit? Yes. It comes across as very rude, and I think it would be a kindness to tip off anyone still doing it.

-- CAV

Link to Original

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am super-shocked that an Objectivist would interpret “Do you want to take out the trash?” as an order, wrapped up as indirect fake-politeness and then asserting without evidence that this “comes across as belittling”. The proposed alternative is to state your request directly, because people don’t like to feel manipulated, and yet the alternative given is the even-worse highly manipulative pseudo-request “Will you do me a favor?”. For the record, that is literally a request for information (a prediction about the future), but without saying what that favor is, you are making an altruistic claim against the addressee’s life. If in fact your purpose is to command a person to take out the trash, as initially asserted above, the most two direct ways to do that are to say “Take out the trash!” or even better, “I command you to take out the trash”. We can temporarily leave aside the question of comparative rudeness.

The blank-check manipulation strategy behind the loathesome utterance “Will you do me a favor?” is not a request for information (compare that to “Will the bus arrive on time?”, where you have some reason to believe that your interlocutor can predict arrival time). It is a demand for a promise – without the courtesy of saying what you are promising, or why you would promise it. A less manipulative, direct approach is to state a fact, such as “I want you to take out the trash” (who cares what you want?), “It would be to your advantage if you took out the trash” (I’m waiting for the details…), “If you want sex, you better take out the trash” (at least now you know what’s at stake), or the objectively preferable “If and only if you take out the trash, I will have sex with you” (though submit that contract to a lawyer if you can’t find the loopholes). Everytime some pundit makes an ignorant claim about proper use of language and what words “really” mean, I have to fight the temptation to make a witty or sarcastic reply, and I always lose the fight.

It is very rude to make uninformed claims about language, and yet people do it all the time. I think that the reason is that “rude” is an emotional response, not a rational one. It’s clearly a negative reaction, it implies that the perpetrator lacks basic knowledge of social norms, and is only used when the evaluator feels (yes, feels) that those norms are so self-evidently true that it is impossible to rationally explain what is morally wrong with the action. Appeal to how things “come across” is a bullet-proof proof that an action is rude: it is bullet-proof because it is a statement about the speaker’s subjective emotional reaction, which cannot politely be disputed.

In aid of getting the trash taken out, what would be a morally-proper egoistic action? Very simply, take out the trash, don’t pass the buck to some other person. If taking the trash out is of high value to you, you will take out the trash. If it is a high value to Smith to take out the trash himself, Smith will take out the trash without any prompting. Since Thanksgiving just happened, we might reflect on social interactions from last Thursday. How do you acquire more turkey when it is 12 feet away from you? We could make a list of verbal and non-verbal means of achieving that end, and then we could also pair with each means a rudeness-evaluation, where (for example) interrupting a conversation to say “Pass the turkey” is rule, and saying “Please pass the turkey” is ruder because it introduces a level of uncertainty in the request (what should I do if it doesn’t please me to pass the turkey?). BTW getting up and taking the turkey is also rude, I leave that as an exercise to the reader.

This is just a smattering of the massive set of reasons why I wish people would dismount their high horses over social conventions of language use.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...