Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rhetorical Question Versus Hypothetical Question

Tuesdays with Morzant:

Morzant Confesses an Error

MORZANT: Zulko, humans. Today I planned to interview Bigfoot, but instead I must use this time to correct an error I made in my last blog post. You may remember that I began a study of the bizarre Earth custom whereby one poses a question based on an improbable set of circumstances. I incorrectly referred to that type of question as “rhetorical” when it is actually “hypothetical.” I apologize for my ignorance of the intricacies of Earth discourse. Apparently when a rhetorical question is asked, the asker does not intend to receive an answer. Please don’t be offended, but sometimes Earth conventions make my brain hurt.

BIGFOOT: What made me think this interview wouldn’t be postponed? Again.

MORZANT: Probably your optimistic nature. I’m sorry, Bigfoot, but ever since I discovered my mistake, I’ve been impatient to correct myself publicly.

BIGFOOT: How could you not be?

MORZANT: Exactly. Although, I suppose I could have contented myself with editing the “Which Books From 2010 Would You Take With You to a Deserted Island?” post and changing all references to that question as “rhetorical” to “hypothetical.” However, that didn’t seem a sufficient act to repair my reputation as a conscientious researcher. I wanted to address this openly and immediately.

BIGFOOT: If not now, when?

MORZANT: Next Tuesday would have been the next opportunity, given that Tuesdays are my assigned days to contribute to the BIGFOOT READS blog. But I was too anxious to wait another week to clear the air.

BIGFOOT: Who could blame you?

MORZANT: Beverly, for one. Have you ever noticed how critical she can sometimes be? Bigfoot, I’m still concerned. What if our readers have lost all respect for me?

BIGFOOT: How could they not?

MORZANT: You’re right. A tad blunt perhaps, but I value your honesty. I need to find a way to rebuild their trust in me.

BIGFOOT: Could you obsess about this any more?

MORZANT: I imagine I could. Maybe if I dedicate the entirety of my future research efforts to the various kinds of questions used in Earth communication, our readers will eventually forget the blunder I made. Do you think that would help?

BIGFOOT: How should I know?

MORZANT: As a being from this planet, I’d have assumed you’d be familiar with the approximate duration of its inhabitants’ memory. You know, I can’t help but wonder why not one one of my friends corrected me as I continued to misuse the word “rhetorical” all through that post.

BIGFOOT: Are you looking at me?

MORZANT: Of course I’m looking at you. There’s nobody else here. Now that you mention it, though, I’m surprised Norman hasn’t made an appearance. He’s disrupted every other attempt I’ve made to interview you thus far. I guess he suspected I’d postpone the interview on my own.

BIGFOOT: So what?

MORZANT: Now that you know Norman is out to sabotage my attempt to interview you, we may be able to circumvent his tricks. Is there a reason you’re being so rude today, Bigfoot?

BIGFOOT: Do bats whistle in the dark?

MORZANT: I’m not certain. Bats do reside in dark places, but I doubt they possess the ability to whistle given that they—wait. Everything you’ve said to me today…have you been speaking solely in rhetorical questions?

BIGFOOT: You noticed that?

MORZANT: Yes. Tell me, does the fact that I supplied an answer to each of your questions negate their rhetorical nature? Or did the questions retain their rhetorical properties merely because you didn’t require a response?

BIGFOOT: What do you think?

MORZANT: I’ll need to contemplate that further. In the meantime, could you please promise that the next time I misuse a word, you’ll inform me so I can avoid appearing foolish?

BIGFOOT: What are friends for?

MORZANT: I’ll take that as a “yes.” I ask you, humans: Hasn’t this experience been illuminating? Good-bye for now.

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