Discourse politeness question

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Wed Mar 19 14:48:13 UTC 2008

I recently composed an e-mail that read as does (1) below. Then I re-read it, and it sounded a bit brusque; so I emended it to (2).

 My question: Why does the addition of two words that denote greater urgency actually mitigate the patronizing effect of the plainer utterance?

Hi Peter,
I'd like to have your thoughts on this.

Hi Peter,
I'd like very much to have your thoughts on this.


This seems akin to the well-known difference between "Have one of my wonderful brownies" and "You must have one of my wonderful brownies," in which the insistence of "must" is intended to be interpreted as underscoring the sincerity of the offer and the pseudo-desperation of the speaker to please her guest. That is, the weird function of normally insistent "must" deflates the brusqueness of the bare imperative. But that is not quite what seems to be going on in my message to Peter.
------Original Message------
From: Benjamin Barrett
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: ADS-L
Sent: Mar 19, 2008 4:38 AM
Subject: [ADS-L] Subjunctive(?): not critical that

I recently wrote a sentence, which said in part, "it's not critical
that everything *tie* together."

My client wants to know if it should be "ties."

Is this a case of the fading subjunctive (in which case either is
okay), or is there something else going on here?

Benjamin Barrett
a cyberbreath for language life

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list