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Responding what when someone calls you

  1. Apr 2, 2009 #1
    This thread is inspired by Ivan Seeking's thread styled "Pointing with the middle finger."

    I notice from time to time that when some people call another person's name, rather than responding with "yes?" or some other type of reply, some people seem to inadvertently commit the act of rudeness by responding "What?". I don't think that the people are deliberately being rude. I think that most of the people don't even know that this is bad manners.

    Example:

    John, "Bill."

    Bill: "What?"

    Whenever I hear this, I can't help but think "Doesn't that guy know that it is rude to respond with what when someone calls him by name?"

    When I was in public school, the customary response that a student would make when a teacher called his name to get his attention would be "What?", though nobody ever said anything about it...


    What do you people think?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2009 #2

    tiny-tim

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    Welcome to PF!

    o:) What? o:)
     
  4. Apr 2, 2009 #3
    yea i'm here
     
  5. Apr 2, 2009 #4

    tiny-tim

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    Who's here? :confused:
     
  6. Apr 2, 2009 #5
    Not me, it must be a heffalump or a woozle.
     
  7. Apr 2, 2009 #6

    BobG

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    I tend to blame every decline in etiquette on lawyers. (Law Students Set the Etiquette Bar Low, but still fail to pass the bar)

    Monosyllable replies are always rude. I always expected my kids to reply with a full, "Whaddya want?!" when I called them.

    When a person replies, "What?", I always think of Vinnie Barbarino (coincidently, it's Arnold Horshack's 60th birthday today).
     
  8. Apr 2, 2009 #7

    matthyaouw

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    Why is it rude?
     
  9. Apr 2, 2009 #8
    I also think "Whaddya want?!" is less rude than "WHAT?"
     
  10. Apr 2, 2009 #9

    wolram

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    What is old and misused, it will take many knuckle sandwiches to dislodge it.
     
  11. Apr 2, 2009 #10

    BobG

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    Actually, replying, "What?" isn't rude in itself, but it does fail to meet the following requirement:

    In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
    (from http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/civility/transcript.html [Broken]

    I guess it could comply with:
    Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

    Likewise, one should:

    All very good, common sense rules.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Apr 2, 2009 #11
    To go back to the original example, that should go perhaps:

    Example:

    John, "Bill."

    Bill: "Yes, sir."

    or

    Example:

    John, "Bill."

    Bill: "How may I help you?"

    or

    Example:

    John, "Bill."

    Bill: "You called, sir?"

    Just what did you have in mind?
     
  13. Apr 2, 2009 #12
    Some people find the littlest damn things to complain about and this is a classic. It's only rude because YOU’VE assessed it as such. In reality, it's not rude in the least. They could have elected to ignore you altogether, and if you are so easily offended, then perhaps they’d be correct in doing so.

    In responding with, “What?”, they've not only acknowledged that you’ve called upon them, but they’ve proceeded to the next logical step by asking what it is that you are inquiring about, thereby saving wasted chatter getting to the point. Do you also want a big wet kiss and hug before and after each conversation?

    Perhaps you should just be thankful that they acknowledged you as nicely as they did. They could have simply responded with, “Bite me, dude!” :biggrin:
     
  14. Apr 2, 2009 #13
    "what can i do you for?"

    six times ruder, or six time better?
     
  15. Apr 2, 2009 #14

    BobG

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    Thank you. I finally understand why "What?" is a rude answer. Without understanding the thought process behind a reply like that, I just thought that rule was kind of quaint.
     
  16. Apr 2, 2009 #15

    DaveC426913

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    Just because it's not the rudest thing one could say doesn't mean it's not rude.

    "What?" is short for "What do you want?" which is kind of setting a bad precedent, as if the interruption is bothering them.

    An appropriate response is "Yes?"
     
  17. Apr 2, 2009 #16
    So, does this mean I've been rude to people 24,040 times in my life? "What?" is so predominant now, it's hard to rationalize it as a rude response anymore. I've never thought anyone was being rude to me with that reply.
     
  18. Apr 2, 2009 #17

    DaveC426913

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    One could say the same thing about spitting on the ground. It is so predominant now it's hard for people to remember when spitting was a vile, disgusting and unhygienic habit.

    Oh wait. Some of us haven't forgotten.
     
  19. Apr 2, 2009 #18
    I can't see a good comparison there. Spit bothers most people. "What?" does not.
     
  20. Apr 2, 2009 #19
    yes, it's exactly the same thing.

    it all depends really, on inflection.

    one might even make the same observation about simply calling someone by their name. if you need them to come look at something, you could've simply asked immediately after. you can't expect a proper reply if you don't ask a proper question.
     
  21. Apr 2, 2009 #20

    lisab

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    There's more to this subject, though...it's not so simple.

    For one, the tone of voice is the primary criteria of how any word or phrase comes across to the listener. There are very rude ways of saying, "Yes?". Similarly there are sweet, soft ways to say "What?". But I'll assume that's already understood.

    Also, the tone of voice of the person calling the name will influence the response that is received.

    Basically, when trying to determine whether a particular comment is rude or not, the whole interaction and tone have to be considered, not simply the words that were spoken.
     
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