People around me at work say phrases like:
- “Do we know how long this will take?”
- “Do we have someone that can figure that out?”
The patronizing we is sometimes used in addressing instead of “you”. A doctor may ask a patient: And how are we feeling today? This usage is emotionally non-neutral and usually bears a condescending, ironic, praising, or some other flavor, depending on an intonation: “Aren’t we looking cute?”.
I don’t like it. People tend to use it to assign an activity implicitly, like when somebody says “We’ll take care of it” and they really want me to do something, but they also want to somehow associate themselves with my labor.
And when some of the lazy marketing people say “Do we know how many of X there are?” what they really mean is “I’m so mushy-headed I can’t even bother thinking who I should ask to find this out”.
Finally, the “We need to get this done!” and “We need to make this a priority!” imperatives are the absolute worst. The speaker is admonishing subordinates and at the same time taking credit for anything that may happen.
Perhaps later I will construct a lookup table to disambiguate these phrases.