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Interesting Linguistic Exchange
Posted: 10 November 2019 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Suzanne and I went into a sporting goods store yesterday looking for hockey equipment for her son. A clerk approached us as we entered, and this exchange occurred:

CLERK:  How are you doing today?

SUZANNE: Hockey.

CLERK: Along the back wall, two aisles down on the right.

Suzanne correctly interpreted the clerk’s question to mean something other than it’s literal meaning, and the clerk instantly understood the one word response, interpreting it as also connoting that we knew exactly what we were looking for and didn’t need help beyond locating the section of the store. It just goes to show how much context and schema (a “script” for a particular social interaction) go into a routine linguistic exchange.

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Posted: 10 November 2019 08:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would interpret Suzanne’s response to mean, “Cut the bullshit.”?

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Posted: 10 November 2019 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Eyehawk - 10 November 2019 08:35 AM

I would interpret Suzanne’s response to mean, “Cut the bullshit.”?

Ditto

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Posted: 10 November 2019 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Essentially yes, but I wouldn’t phrase it that way. It’s more, “the social niceties aren’t necessary.”

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Posted: 11 November 2019 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 10 November 2019 10:54 AM

Essentially yes, but I wouldn’t phrase it that way. It’s more, “the social niceties aren’t necessary.”

There’s a power imbalance between a shopper and a shop assistant. Someone dispensing with niceties with friends, family, colleagues, let alone superiors, would probably face negative consequences.

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Posted: 11 November 2019 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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What OP said.

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Posted: 11 November 2019 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dave Wilton - 10 November 2019 10:54 AM

Essentially yes, but I wouldn’t phrase it that way. It’s more, “the social niceties aren’t necessary.”

They may not be necessary, but sadly in today’s society neither are good manners and politeness. I would think a polite response could have been: I’m fine, thank you, where can I find your hockey equipment?

We certainly could use a little more common courtesy rather than the more common in-your-face confrontations that seem to be the more accepted status quo of cultural behavior.

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Posted: 11 November 2019 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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We certainly could use a little more common courtesy rather than the more common in-your-face confrontations that seem to be the more accepted status quo of cultural behavior.

Typically American, I’m told. Just watched a video about German conversations and it asserts that Germans, generally, eschew small talk like this.

I just dislike it so much. I try to find a barber that doesn’t engage in it. I just stop responding to “So, what’s the rest of your day look like?” “What kind of work do you do?”

Not sure if it’s my natural introversion, but it just drives me to distraction. I have found a nice barber who doesn’t engage in it. Aaaannnd does a decent haircut!

[ Edited: 11 November 2019 11:37 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 11 November 2019 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have always responded in a friendly manner to sales reps in this situation. I understand how difficult their job is. They have to smile to even the most obnoxious customers. A curt answer to a sales rep in almost any circumstance is uncalled for, IMO.

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Posted: 11 November 2019 07:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Dave Wilton - 10 November 2019 07:41 AM

Suzanne and I went into a sporting goods store yesterday looking for hockey equipment for her son. A clerk approached us as we entered, and this exchange occurred:

CLERK:  How are you doing today?

SUZANNE: Hockey.

CLERK: Along the back wall, two aisles down on the right.

Suzanne correctly interpreted the clerk’s question to mean something other than it’s literal meaning, and the clerk instantly understood the one word response, interpreting it as also connoting that we knew exactly what we were looking for and didn’t need help beyond locating the section of the store. It just goes to show how much context and schema (a “script” for a particular social interaction) go into a routine linguistic exchange.

Eyehawk: I would interpret Suzanne’s response to mean, “Cut the bullshit.”?

Why interpret that in this way? You’ve set this up to be a challenge when it’s not.  Does the clerk really want to know how Suzanne is doing today? She jumps, rightly in my view, to what she is there for. Where do you get “Cut the bullshit?”

In most of my encounters in such situations, the question from the clerk is, “How can I help you?” The natural response is “Hockey.” Clerk’s response, “Along the back wall, two aisles down on the right.

Dave is simply raising a linguistic issue here. She understands that the question about how she is doing is unnecessary, and she simply moves to what she needs. Hockey!

What is so difficult about that?

[ Edited: 11 November 2019 07:57 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 12 November 2019 05:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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(deleted response) I don’t want to create any bad feeling here. I originally was joking. I’m sure she was not being disrespectful.

[ Edited: 12 November 2019 05:51 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 12 November 2019 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Exactly. My point in posting was to give an example of how utterances are often not meant to be interpreted literally and that our social interactions are often governed by schemas (scripts of a sort) that organize the interaction.

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Posted: 12 November 2019 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Dave Wilton - 12 November 2019 05:46 AM

Exactly. My point in posting was to give an example of how utterances are often not meant to be interpreted literally and that our social interactions are often governed by schemas (scripts of a sort) that organize the interaction.

Are you referring to paralanguage?
What about the permutations of tone? Meta-communication (non verbal communication) communication not expressed in words: pitch, intonation, volume. 

Oecolampadius questions why one would interpret Suzanne’s response as being dismissive. That’s how I immediately interpreted it by just reading the interaction. In written form one can’t distinguish a tone without a description of its intonation. We all use different tones for emphasis on how we express ourselves. If Suzanne’s response were punctuated as an interrogative then perhaps I could interpret it differently. The clerk was following the formalities of social etiquette by his “how are you doing today”. Normally one would respond, “fine, I’m looking for hockey equipment.” Realistically, everyone we encounter on a daily basis who ask us how we are doing don’t actually give a damn about our health or disposition; it’s just a formality. But as I’ve previously stated civility is no longer a practicing virtue.

N.B. I’m not insinuating that Suzanne’s response was discourteous, because I wasn’t there. I’m just opining on how one can interpret various vocal inflections.

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Posted: 13 November 2019 05:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I agree here. Without knowing how she responded physically, it is unknown what her intent was. Was she smiling? Looking at or away from the clerk? Or gazing into space dismissively? Although my answer was meant more as a joke, it was also meant as a possible rejection of the clerk’s “unnecessary” question.

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Posted: 13 November 2019 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Eyehawk - 13 November 2019 05:08 AM

I agree here. Without knowing how she responded physically, it is unknown what her intent was. Was she smiling? Looking at or away from the clerk? Or gazing into space dismissively? Although my answer was meant more as a joke, it was also meant as a possible rejection of the clerk’s “unnecessary” question.

We can no more know that you meant that as a joke than you can know that the response “Hockey” was dismissive of the clerk’s question. Dave’s opening post was about the linguistic insight that not all questions or statements in social intercourse are meant to be taken literally.

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Posted: 14 November 2019 01:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Oecolampadius - 13 November 2019 10:44 AM

Eyehawk - 13 November 2019 05:08 AM
I agree here. Without knowing how she responded physically, it is unknown what her intent was. Was she smiling? Looking at or away from the clerk? Or gazing into space dismissively? Although my answer was meant more as a joke, it was also meant as a possible rejection of the clerk’s “unnecessary” question.

We can no more know that you meant that as a joke than you can know that the response “Hockey” was dismissive of the clerk’s question. Dave’s opening post was about the linguistic insight that not all questions or statements in social intercourse are meant to be taken literally.

With speech you have all the paralanguage, with the written word welcome to the wonderful world of emojis ;-}

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