Why Shouldn’t You Answer A Rhetorical Question?

Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical title. Is it just me, or does everyone get annoyed with rhetorical questions? If you already know the answer, and the person asking already knows the answer, then why does this moron even bother to ask the question? What is he or she hoping to accomplish? What would they do if you actually answered it? Has anyone noticed that, including this one, I’ve now asked five consecutive rhetorical questions? Are you wondering if I intend to write an entire post rhetorically? The answer is no. While rhetorical questions have a useful place in writing, it is my opinion that rhetorical questions have very little usefulness in real life. The places we are most often tortured with inane rhetorical questions seem to be college classes, work trainings or seminars, and in meetings at work. For me, there are two specific types of people who at times seem deserving of some sort of physical retribution for their handling of rhetorical questions. I believe that there should be some type of competency test and licensing procedure before one is allowed to walk freely spouting rhetorical questions. Don’t you agree?

The first type of person who just drives me batty with their inappropriate use of rhetorical questions is the person who actually expects and waits for an answer to what should be a rhetorical question. For example:

Boss: “Well team, I hate to say it, but for our department to remain financially viable and avoid lay offs we are either going to have to work harder to increase our profit margin or we will soon find ourselves on the unemployment line. So what’s it going to be? Work harder or unemployment?” (Question is followed by 30 seconds of silence) “I said people, what’s it going to be? Work hard or unemployment?”

Group of employees: (tremendously unenthusiastic response coupled with arms folded and eyes rolling) “Work harder.”

The second type of person who deserves a good, swift punch to the forehead is not the person asking rhetorical questions, but the person who insists on responding to them. These doormats have such low self-esteem that they revel in their ability to come up with the correct answer in front of what they imagine is an impressed audience of their peers. For example:

Teacher/Instructor: “In the 2000 presidential election, possibly due to some voting irregularities in the state of Florida, George Bush won the electoral college vote despite not having a larger number of popular votes than Al Gore, and we all know how that turned out don’t we?”

Student: Yes. The war in Iraq is this generations’ Viet Nam, gas prices are out of control, and inflation is on the rise!

When I am elected President, or Sexiest Man Alive, whichever comes first, I intend to pass a law legalizing the punch to the forehead as the appropriate response to anyone who asks an unnecessary rhetorical question or who unnecessarily answers a rhetorical question. Speaking on behalf of all men however,I would like to inform women that there is one rhetorical question that is always O.K. and will never result in a punch to the forehead, and we all know what that question is, don’t we?

14 responses to “Why Shouldn’t You Answer A Rhetorical Question?

  1. Oooh, I’m in class with several of the second type several times a week. Every time they open their mouths, I have violent images flashing though my head. And I’ve learned something new today. Up until now, I had no idea that The Sexies Man Alive could pass laws. But I suppose that if Bush can pull it off…

  2. President, or sexiest man alive….christ, you’re full fo yourself.

  3. My rhetorical question for the day is why spend $100 on highlights that are so natural looking that no one notices the difference, including me. Or am I just regretting my decision?

  4. Is the one acceptable rhetorical woman-to-man question, “Is that for me?”

  5. Hey <>Phil<>, Mr. President, et alThe one acceptable rhetorical query from a woman to her man that will never result in a punch to the forehead is “Darling, will you marry me so that I can make an honest man out of you?” 🙂In other words, it’s a jungle out there but it looks like the laws of the jungle are changing for the better, eh?Here’s an open invitation for you to come on over to take a virtual tour of Belize City. There is a <>“A whole lotta shakin”<> going on at <>“My House”<>. I am gathering a group for thirsty thursday. Any takers? LOLEnid

  6. ChooChoo- When I am Sexiest Man Alive I will insist on passing laws. The Phil Laws I will call them. I believe that will be my next post.Princess- If we can’t be full of ourselves, who else is going to do it for us? Don’t lie, you are totally digging my action.Travelin’ pt- No, you made the right decision, but go with the cheap, store bought, do it yourself at home highlights next time.Geewits- That depends what you are referring to.Belizegial- I will definitely head over to your blog to take the tour. I think everyone should see how beautiful Belize is.

  7. Digging your action? I dont even know what that means. Must be a small town yank thing….W use proper grammar in Canada. So, as for digging your action…i’m gonna have to go with “No” on this one. :o)

  8. uh, unemployment.

  9. I ask a lot of questions in class…some are rhetorical…some are not. My kids don’t always know the difference. If they answer one of the ones that wasn’t meant as a real question, I let them…and I listen. But the trick with rhetorical questions is not to pause…keep moving along and don’t give them the chance…just in case they don’t read your blog, of course.-N

  10. A punch on the forehead? ouch, I’d think a punch in a softer region might be a better idea, no?(oh…that’s NOT a rhetorical question btw.)🙂

  11. Phil, I think you know what I meant. Yes, I meant THAT.

  12. ohhh I think I am insulted…I am the queen of rhetorical questions…or maybe not? What do you think?

  13. ive been told to leave my rhetorical questions out of my writing as well.i guess there is just no place for them anymore, now is there?

  14. As much as I’d love to agree 100% on this posting, I’ve to give some benefit of the doubt to foreigners (working adults or students). 2 night ago, my boyfriend and I had a disagreement on this very topic. He insisted that I was like the student who’ll always answer his rhetorical questions, and he gets annoyed. He added that I use rhetorical questions sometimes too, but very often, I am not aware that I’m answering a rhetorical question. To my defense, I explained to him that although English is my first language, I do speak 2 other languages and 2 dialects, and grew up in a foreign country.
    How confident would you be with your rhetoric theories, for example, if you are speaking to a native Chinese in your local Chinatown?

Leave a Reply