Today at work I received an email. Well, to be honest, I received a whole boatload of emails, but this one in particular stood out from the rest.
It was from one of the ladies I work with and it read:
‘Dan, can you do something for me please?’
That was it. No follow up. No elaboration. Just that one, simple, pointless question.
I thought long and hard about it for almost a whole millisecond before typing this reply to her:
‘How am I supposed to answer that?
If I say yes and you ask me to kill a man, then I would feel committed to an act I may not be entirely comfortable with.
If I say no and you ask me to help you cheer up a terminally ill child in hospital, then I would be a heartless bastard.
So I’m going to sit here and soon enough you’ll ask me to do whatever it is you need me to do :-D’
I won’t lie, it wasn’t well received.
But when you think about it, it’s a pretty redundant question. I mean, social etiquette forces me into a corner with this one. The only possible answer I could realistically give is ‘yes’, otherwise I’m just a bit of a cock.
And what then? All she would know is that I am CAPABLE of doing something for her, but with no clue if I would actually DO it. After all, I didn’t know myself IF I’d do it, only that I COULD.
If so inclined.
Which I wasn’t.
If a genie were to appear in a puff of smoke and, instead of granting wishes, offered her the answer to any question of her choosing, she would probably reply “what, I can ask any question I want?”
> Poof <
This got me thinking of all the redundant questions I’ve been asked in my life. The ones that simply don’t satisfy the basic purpose of a question, which is to gain information or clarity.
I don’t include rhetorical questions in all this because they don’t really require an answer. What would be the point in that?
No, I’m talking about genuine questions I’ve heard in my lifetime that serve no purpose other than to use up more oxygen than brain cells.
For example; “Can I ask you a question?”
It’s a lot like “Dan, can you do something for me please?” in the fact that after the socially required answer of “yes”, you STILL need to ask the question you actually wanted to ask in the first place.
Some picky grammar nazis might say that the question in itself is a paradox because you’re asking someone if you can ask them a question, in a question; therefore leaving the recipent without a choice.
But not me, I would never do that.
And what about; “Are you still reading that book?” when I’m sat there, book in hand, reading it.
No mate, i’m deep frying a chicken.
The same goes for “why are you watching this?” or “how can you eat that?”; both of these can be answered with “because I like it”, or “fuck off”.
Take your pick. Both are effective and surprisingly relevant.
And there’s the multifaceted irritant that is, “Do you know what I mean?”, or “Do you know what i’m saying?”, or “Do you see what i’m getting at?”, or “Does that make sense?”, or “Do you get me?” at the end of practically every sentence.
I can appreciate using it from time to time when speaking to someone at great length. In fact, my job as a trainer requires me to check throughout the day if the content is making sense, but I don’t use it at the end of practically every sentence.
If you’re that unsure the person you’re speaking to knows what you’re saying, either communicate more effectively or shut up.
The latter would be preferable.
Know what I mean?