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12 May 2009 @ 09:51 am
I'm not sure why I'm hearing this as a Verbal Attack Pattern, but...  
(Definition and one example of Verbal Attack Patterns)


Poll #1398606 A brief poll about English word order

Do these two sentences convey the same emotional tone? (1) "Could you please call $NAME about $TOPIC?" (2) "Could you call $NAME about $TOPIC, please?"

Yes
15(48.4%)
No
16(51.6%)

If they do not convey the same emotional tone, how do they differ?

If someone were leaving a message of that nature for you, which version would you prefer? Assume that the message is being sent by e-mail.

"Could you please call...?"
5(13.5%)
"Could you call..., please?"
10(27.0%)
Either
16(43.2%)
Neither, and I will give a different phrasing in the comments
6(16.2%)
 
 
 
aedificaaedifica on May 12th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
They both can be neutral, and depending on context and intonation, either could become a VA. *shrug* I have a slight preference for "could you please call..." because it feels more natural to me, but I think that's based on my own habits rather than a more general principle.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
Interesting. When I was typing, "Could you please call" kept sounding (in my head) more I was exasperated, where "Could you call... please?" sounded like a simple request.
just the gurl you want: animaniacsgirlgoyle on May 13th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
In my head could you call...please sounds exasperated
Maggiesillymagpie on May 13th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
To me, the opposite was true. The "please" at the end sounded emphasized, which to me sounded aggravated. But I would probably respond differently in an e-mail based on the writer and the context. If I knew the writer was typically inoffensive, I would probably not notice, especially if the content wasn't emotionally charged.
Tim Illingworthtimill on May 12th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
(a) Depends on the intonation, as to how much exasperation there is likely to be in the voice.

(b) "Would you call...?", since the answer to "Could you call...?" is "Yes".

If really fed up: "Would you kindly call...?"
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
Interesting. When I was typing, "Could you please call" kept sounding (in my head) more I was exasperated, where "Could you call... please?" sounded like a simple request.

And do you know, I started with "would" and changed it back and forth before settling on "could", which felt more like I was being more courteous of the person's time ("Do you have time available to call...").
shanashana on May 12th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
I would prefer 'would' rather than 'could', unless there is a question of ability.

"Could you please call" would be appropriate if one of the possible replies is "Sorry, they haven't fixed our phones yet."

But my feeling about the phrases you mentioned is that "Could you please call x about y" has the overtone of mother nagging at kid, whereas "could you call x about y, please" sounds more professional. Like 'I'm being polite because I'm considerate, but you're a professional and I trust you to do a good job at this'.

But in either case, I'd prefer the sentence begin with 'would' rather than 'could'.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Interesting. When I was typing, "Could you please call" kept sounding (in my head) more I was exasperated, where "Could you call... please?" sounded like a simple request.

And do you know, I started with "would" and changed it back and forth before settling on "could", which felt more like I was being more courteous of the person's time ("Do you have time available to call...").
Fat Fred the Otter and Skippy: iotterfatfred on May 12th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
It's all about vocal inflection to me.
And dependent on what I know of the speaker's word patterns.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Interesting. When I was typing, "Could you please call" kept sounding (in my head) more I was exasperated, where "Could you call... please?" sounded like a simple request.
Fat Fred the Otter and Skippy: iotterfatfred on May 12th, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
In my head, they sound the other way around.
I'm hearing it with an exasperated pause and a lean on the word Please.
As I said, it's ALL in the delivery.
Adrian Turtleadrian_turtle on May 12th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
They *usually* convey the same emotional tone. In my experience, which is far from universal. You and I live in different parts of the country, and accent/dialect may well make be important to this. There's a sort of tonal thing a person can do, when "please" is at the end of a statement. The voice doesn't rise at the end of "would you do thus-and-so," it goes flat, slowing a little for emphasis. Then there's a pause, and *please*. Which all tends to suggest exasperation, and "Why on earth do I have to ask you to do this AGAIN?"

It's all in the tone, though. When "Could you call so-and-so, please?" has a steady pace and goes up in pitch at the end (like a question), it's no more hostile than "Could you please call so-and-so?" It may be somewhat easier to put the hostile tone in a request with the "please" at the end, but it's far from automatic. (I mean, if we're talking about a speaker who is not automatically hostile.)
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Interesting. When I was typing, "Could you please call" kept sounding (in my head) more I was exasperated (it insisted on reading as "Could you PLEASE call..."), where "Could you call... please?" sounded like a simple request.
hedwig5221hedwig5221 on May 12th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
I would use the phrase "would" rather than "could" as could, to me, indicates ability...would is asking...just my thoughts.

Oh, yeah...would you please call me? Seriously...I need to talk to you about Annual Meeting reservations!

Edited at 2009-05-12 03:04 pm (UTC)
Spark_in_darknesssparkindarkness on May 12th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
Depends on tone - but the earlier "please" has an implication of emphasis and exasperation. can you PLEASE call, damn it, like I've asked you 100 times/as you should already know?! That kind of feeling

of course the second has an implication of afterthought - depends on the stress.

But I'd generally be happier with please at the end. It sounds more moderate as a request and less like a tetchy demand

Genetypographer on May 12th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Impossible to tell without tone of voice. It isn't the order of the words.
Curious Stuffonelargecat on May 12th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Anyone who says the order of the words matters is just reading too much into it.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on May 12th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
No one actually said anything; this was all going on in my head. So, yeah, I probably was reading too much into it. :-)
Beckybeckyzoole on May 12th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
They really could both be neutral. In an email -- without inflection, tone of voice, etc -- they both sound neutral and polite to me.

If said out loud with heavy emphasis on $NAME and $TOPIC, then they could sound like Verbal Attack Patterns.

What would make either one truly and incontrovertibly into a VAP, I think, would be a heavy emphasis on the word "please".
seawaspseawasp on May 12th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
They're essentially identical to me unless I have specific intonations on the words that change the implied emotional content, or if I have long experience with the speaker which tells me that they only use one particular phrasing for particular circumstances.
Dr. Ben Mack: Prominent User of the Internetepi_lj on May 12th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I think it completely depends on tone and where in the sentence the emphasis falls.
Michaelcuriousangel on May 12th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
I agree that intonation matters, but in my dialect and experience, the first phrasing is much more likely to be coming from someone who is at least slightly irritated, in a "will you PLEASE do this now, you moron?" tone. That may well be a Southern US regionalism, however.

Then again, it's easy to overthink a short email sometimes.
Violet Tigress: darksideviolet_tigress1 on May 12th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
I'd say that no, that is not inherently a verbal attack pattern.... but it could be. It really depends on how they are said.
Tom the Alien Cat: me at my jobtomtac on May 12th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
So very little of a verbal message is conveyed by the literal words, and then, in an email, the tone is certainly influenced by the voice in the reader's head.

I certainly agree with the 'literality' thing in which 'would' is a better choice than 'could'. If I were to read the thing again and again and wonder at what it really means, I would start suspecting that the intent is (1) 'they ask if I "could"', so (2) if I decide in my head that I 'can', then (3) these people will make the assumption that I 'will' ... just because I -can-, those manipulative so-and-sos!

Also, I would then want, as another overkill, to move the word "please" to the front of the message. The longer one delays the word "please", the longer the recipient will wonder if this is going to be a command. Now that I live in the South, I am happy that people go overboard to emphasize the intent that they are asking a favor, as in "Bless your heart, but if you don't mind would you please ...?"
suzilemsuzilem on May 13th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
could you call..... Thank you.

i.e., no please but tack a "thank you" on the end
Steffirecat on May 13th, 2009 01:06 am (UTC)
In text they sound the same to me. If they were spoken, then emotion could be conveyed by emphasis.

If I were picking a request phrase from a list my favorites would be "Would you do X?" (from a co-worker or another person on equal footing with me) or "Please do X" (from a boss).

I'm just language-geeky enough to be tempted to reply to "Could you" with "Yes I could." :-P
LeiaCatleiacat on May 13th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
To my ear given the same tone they are more or less equivalent. I am likely to use a "could you please" if the request is a bit involved, just to make sure that I don't get over-engaged in explaining and omit it altogether. If it's short, I am more likely to "Could you [get to a brief point], please."

"Would you" sounds to me more like nagging and less like request than "could", with either location of "please". If I wanted a datapoint, I'd ask "Can you call X?" - the "please" makes it a request.
Lesliemamatiger on May 13th, 2009 07:46 am (UTC)
It would depend entirely on the actual intonation, if spoken aloud. I personally hear both versions as polite, because they both contain the word "please." There would have to be some other additional information before I would judge either to be an attack.

The first construction does sound to me like the form of a superior to an inferior; an order more than a request. The second sounds like making a request of a friend/equal. But either way, whether "order" or "request", I don't perceive either construction as inherently a verbal attack, although given the right tone and emphasis, either one could be.
don_fitch on May 17th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
I think the perception depends on local (even in-house) usage, with a lot to do with spoken tone-of-voice that's absent from writing, and I'm of the Old Fogey generation who'd be more comfortable with "Please call X about Y", or even "X wants you to call about Y". (I'm assuming this is a business environment, and that "you" is a person whose job it is to handle things like this.)