Thursday, November 24, 2011

What do I Really Mean?

A little brain exercise for me this morning. I often 'blog hop' by choosing blogs from the rolls of my regulars. It takes me to some unexpected places and it is a way in which I find new bloggers to add to my own roll. I came across MMO Gamer Chick this way and found something I wanted to turn into a pedantic exercise in the use of language.

I love language. What we say is both interesting, and revealing. The following quote is from Steve Lichtsinn , a blogger who interviewed MMO Gamer Chick for an article on Multiplaying.net. I haven't read the original article, nor have I checked out that site so if it's filled with ridiculous pornography or cruelty to animals (or both at the same time) I take no responsibility for directing you there. I did read her post and found this question, posed by him, to be quite interesting (in an academic sense):

I don’t mean to ask this in a negative way, but, do you feel that women are harder to please, thus making games for women a more difficult task?
What's interesting, for me, is not the question itself (nor the answer to be honest) but how it is put forth. What the hell am I on about? "I don't mean" is a classic preface to a question/statement in which the the person speaking has every intention of doing whatever they say they don't mean to do. Whew! Confusing? Okay, let's slow it down.

Here's a common phrase: "I don't mean to interrupt you, but...". In this case the person making this statement has every intention of interrupting. If they really didn't mean to interrupt they'd simply shut the hell up and not interrupt. What they are really saying is "I mean to interrupt you.." and here it comes.

Or how about this: "I don't mean to be rude, but have you gained a bit of weight?" Again the person talking knows full well this question is rude, but they feel the need (out of social obligation) to preface it so they appear to care. What they are saying is "I mean to be rude.." and you look fatter.

Returning to the question above I put forth the theory that the author had every intention of asking that question in a negative way. Remove the negative preface 'don't' and you are left with: I mean to ask this in a negative way..". It' also a bit telling, in my opinion, about how he feels about women in this particular case.

I don't think women are harder to please so I would have asked the question thusly:

Do you feel women are harder to please, thus making games for women a more difficult task?
It wouldn't occur to me to preface this in a negative way because I don't believe it's a negative question. It's a non-issue for me, see? The original author, by prefacing it, reveals he believes in what he is about to say or ask just like the person who is 'sorry to interrupt' knows he's about to interrupt. Hence, he believes women are harder to please.

Bored yet? Okay, Narrative Analysis lesson over. Let's go back to gaming!

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