Category Archives: language

This story offers a good excuse to use the blockquote tag.

A friend of mine, Y, is spending the week in the jury pool for Cleveland. Every day, he gets brought in with all the other potential jurors. They all answer questions and then the attorneys throw people out that they don’t like.

Yesterday’s trial involved a guy facing 31 counts of child rape — little girls. Y has two daughters, about the same age as the victims. The judge asked if anyone in the panel would have difficulty remaining objective in this trial.

Y replied that he could attempt to apply the letter of the law and follow due process, but he wouldn’t be able to deny his visceral reaction:

“I would be like somebody that graduated from medical school but faints at
the sight of blood.”

That got him put back in the pool for tomorrow’s trial.

Anyway, I thought that was a clever phrase.

I don’t like the patronizing “we”

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?”

Wikipedia calls this the patronizing we and the description is dead on:

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.