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25 February 2013

"Use your words" ... Does this phrase sound as obnoxious and condescending to you as it does to me?[More:]I hear this phrase used all the time now and it really grates on me. Am I missing something, or is this phrase something one would say to a child, now commonly used toward adults?
I work with kids (ages 3-7), and use it frequently with them. What I mean in those situations is that they should solve problems by talking to the other person, not hitting them or grabbing the toy. For adults, I guess it translates to "say what you mean", instead of communicating via snarky comments or vague insinuations.
posted by booksherpa 25 February | 23:48
It hurts my feelings. That sort of thing was never said to me as a child.
posted by Hugh Janus 26 February | 00:07
I use "use your words" with the bf sometimes sparingly when he is just not communicating his emotions with me AT ALL and it's a totally shitty situation. I don't like using it, but sometimes it's warranted.
posted by Twiggy 26 February | 00:33
I say it to my dog and now to the baby, neither of whom can talk. If another adult said it to me, I don't think they'd like the words I'd have for them
posted by kyleg 26 February | 00:41
Unless the speaker stresses the word 'your' in that phrase, I wouldn't have a clue what he/she was talking about. If he/she did stress 'your', I would still be confused because I always phrase things my way.
posted by Ardiril 26 February | 01:19
It would make me what to get all Doug Glatt on the guy.
posted by arse_hat 26 February | 02:36
I've only heard it used with very young children and feel it's become an overused catchphrase. Not appropriate to direct towards adults.
posted by mightshould 26 February | 05:23
a peculiarly snide, patronising style of argument: the goal is to provoke your opponent into losing their temper

That is a good description of that style.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 26 February | 07:18
In a similar vein, I often say "Show your work" to my husband when he's trying to convince me that something is a good idea because I want to know what his complete thought process is and how he arrived at his conclusion. It works for us, but I don't think I'd ever say it to anyone else.
posted by TrishaLynn 26 February | 09:04
I say it to my daughter, because she has a problem with frustration leading to inarticulate yelling and grunts. But ours goes something like "slow down, slow down, yoga breathing, OK now use words"

I would never say any version of that to an adult. It's ridiculously patronising. (though I can see the argument that if an adult is *acting* like a petulant child...)
posted by gaspode 26 February | 09:10
We said it to our daughter all the time. Like gaspode, I would never use it with an adult, unless there it was in a very lighthearted, fun way, and there was no question about that, on either side.
posted by danf 26 February | 10:04
I think that typing 'use your words' at someone who is also typing on a forum is the height of obnoxiousness.
posted by Splunge 26 February | 12:15
Removed several comments. Talk about Metafilter belongs on the aptly named Metatalk.
posted by arse_hat 26 February | 12:47
OK no problem. It wasn't a deliberate attempt to drag MF issues over here - that site is literally the only place I've ever read this phrase.
posted by altolinguistic 26 February | 13:27
What Splunge said.
posted by Ardiril 26 February | 13:31
No problems. It just got to be about more than a phrase.
posted by arse_hat 26 February | 14:23
I use this phrase as a joke -- e.g. to the cat.
posted by bearwife 26 February | 16:25
My Kitty has too many words. Be quiet cat!
posted by arse_hat 26 February | 17:38
It can be obnoxious and condescending, but it's often unfortunately necessary depending on who you are talking to and what you are talking about, although I'm thinking in cases more like, "Use words," period, because the person is not expressing themselves at all or in an adequate fashion. Like if someone just says, "that sucks," or "that's shitty," or "wow," unless we're in the middle of a Vulcan mind meld, I'm going to need more information, and a lot of people seem very low in their range of vocabulary. They actually do not have words. A lot of the time, I'll use a word and a person will then use that word back at me, as if it's a novelty or a new discovery or because they really do not know how to communicate and they grasp onto this one word and use it repeatedly, maybe for lack of synonyms or just other words, point blank.
More and more, I'm bewildered at what people think words mean. There seem to be a lot of people who do not believe in "definitions" so much as "loose consensus of what I think this word means according to these people I've heard use it," not to mention changes in meaning due to context. Less and less are people actually using the same language.

Also, it seems most people are use to hearing the same words so often that just by using different words, people are immediately confused because they are expecting to hear something and I said something else. I find myself repeating myself a lot because people will dismiss what is being said if it is not expected option a, b, or c. Recently, I keep having this issue with older librarians and researchers. I give the pertinent information, but they tell me it doesn't matter and keep explaining x. When they finish, I repeat myself, and they take a few beat and realize they blew off the information, then they want to explain that, and I'm just trying to blow right through to get to the information I need-- these crappy steps seem necessary over email over half the time as well.

You have to factor in that some people will think you have just made up an unfamiliar word, and you may as well because they won't admit to not knowing what it means in front of you if they think you are an adult. As a child, I remember being accused of making up "topography." Once I got to Indiana, I was told apartheid was not a word, there was no such thing as a Judeo-Christian god and breast was spelled without an a. By teachers. And therein lies part of the source of the problem.

I've been doing this experiment for a few years on seeing what kind of reaction and response I get. From just manipulating appearances-- now that is a whole 'nother kettle of verbal fish. Fascinating and completely disheartening about humanity.

Can you tell I have a lot to say about this word issue? I think there is a serious issue of basic cognition going on with what seems to be people's lack of words. I think I have to at least check out what the "normal" high school graduate level is suppose to be, because I cannot believe what people think is "good" at a college level. I'm still hoping this is localized phenomena but signs are not good.
posted by ethylene 26 February | 18:23
This is something that began, appropriately, in the world of early childhood education, and it belongs there. It's indeed useful with kids who aren't yet articulating anger and frustration verbally but need to learn to do that. I learned this strategy in the mid 1990s as a kindergarten teacher.

It has no real place in discourse amongst adults. As a phrase developed to help kids learn to speak rather than hit or throw, it is indeed condescending used toward adults.
posted by Miko 27 February | 22:28
Bored || the way I'm increasingly seeing the world