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When will the rhetorical questions stop?

Posted on 2008.07.02 at 02:36
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Question - The Moody Blues
I have searched for many years for the elusive Rhetorical Answer. Einstein predicted their existence, and they should be out there, but all we have so far are a few tantalizing glimpses. The closest I have come thus far is the phrase, “Well… y’know.”

Perhaps I should leave such matters to more educated minds and stick with what we do know.

Anyone who knows me (and you know who you are) should know that I have always enjoyed trying to answer rhetorical questions. A recent example: After one of our cats had done something particularly adorable, CC posed the query, “What would we do if we didn’t have kitties?” I helpfully replied, “Well, we’d go out and get some.”

Sometimes, though, I have attempted such answers to my own detriment. A few years ago, along with a large group of co-workers, I took part in an etiquette workshop. Yes, I know… I can hear your snickers and snide remarks all the way through cyberspace. Be that as it may, the facilitator at one point asked the group, “Who here likes small talk?”

Alas, poor me. I failed to recognize it as a rhetorical question, asked with the assumption that no one likes small talk. My immediate thought was, “Heck yeah! I love small talk!” – so my hand shot up. I quickly realized that no one else’s hand was up, and people were guffawing all around me. The facilitator patiently and kindly explained that her question had been rhetorical in nature, and she tactfully decided not to pursue why I should have failed to recognize this fact. While I appreciated her discretion, I’m still not sure it was an entirely fair question. Perhaps on another occasion, I will defend the noble art of small talk, as well as my firm belief that almost everyone employs it from time to time, and that pretending otherwise is a bit disingenuous… but I’ll let it go for today. Let me just say that our facilitator was a very nice lady and I learned a lot from her.

By the way, if anyone has any suggestions for other Rhetorical Answers, I’d love to hear them!

…and a tip of the metaphorical cap to the late George Carlin, from whom I borrowed the title of this post.


beautifulsoup at 2008-07-03 00:32 (UTC) (Link)
Shut up! I'm having a rhetorical conversation!

...I have nothing useful to say, I just wanted to quote from one of my favorite films.
charlesofcamden at 2008-07-03 00:52 (UTC) (Link)
Leo: Let's assume you're a dishonest man.
Max: Assume away!
(Anonymous) at 2008-07-03 04:53 (UTC) (Link)

Rhetorical Answer

The most obvious answer I can think of is: Whatever.
-- ggreen
charlesofcamden at 2008-07-03 05:10 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Rhetorical Answer

That works!
beth_green at 2008-07-16 14:31 (UTC) (Link)
I could (and probably should) be doing my online nursing coursework, but instead I'm reading more of your blog.

Along the lines of your later post on people who are surprisingly still alive, one of them is MAD Magazine's Al Jaffee. I suspect that Al Jaffee's 'Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions' feeds into your quest for rhetorical answers. For example, there's this oldie but goodie:

Q: (from a waiter, to a husband and wife) Table for how many?
A: A hundred and twelve -- we like to change seats every few minutes.
A: One -- my wife will sit on my shoulders.
A: I don't know -- I can't count that high, either.

Mr. Jaffee is still alive and working, having celebrated his 87th birthday in March. The New York Times did a nice piece on Al Jaffee back in March. I expect you've seen it, but it's worth another look just to play with the MAD fold-ins from the 60s to the present in interactive form. The fold-ins link is here;

and the link for the Al Jaffee article is here.

Al Jaffee wrote one of my favorite book dedications: "To myself, without whose inspired and tireless efforts this book would not have been possible."

I will close with the latest news, from May 24th of this year:

"MAD Magazine Veteran Al Jaffee has won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Mr. Jaffee received a statuette designed by and named after the NCS' first president, Rube Goldberg. Past Reuben winners include Mike Luckovich, Pat Brady, Greg Evans, Scott Adams, Sergio Aragones, Garry Trudeau, Gary Larson, Cathy Guisewite, Mike Peters, Jim Davis, Lynn Johnston, Bill Watterson and Charles Schulz. It was the veteran's first Reuben Award nomination, having previously won three NCS Division awards during the 1970s. Jaffee beat out fellow nominees "Speed Bump" creator Dave Coverly and Dan Piraro of "Bizarro" fame."
charlesofcamden at 2008-07-16 17:32 (UTC) (Link)
I had not seen the Al Jaffee article, so thank you very much!
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