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Frequently-asked Rhetorical Questions

It has come to my attention that the World Wide Web is littered with websites such as the neuron-apoptosingly stupid Yahoo! Answers, where you can ask strangers to answer questions like “Who was that guy that played Porkins in Star Wars?” and “Is this a tumor?” If my parents ever used this website, their response to every question would be “Go look it up for yourself”, which is why I’m now able to have a conversation without attaching an iPad to my retinas.

I do have one problem, however. Rhetorical questions have  never made sense to me. I know what they are, I know how to use them, I even use them myself sometimes, I just don’t get them, like I don’t get people who think jokes about prison rape are clever. If you and I are having a conversation, or if I happen to be walking by while you’re talking to yourself, and you use a rhetorical question, chances are good that I’ll answer it.

People do not typically like it when you answer their rhetorical questions. Frequently, they’ll point out that their question was rhetorical, which does absolutely nothing to stop me from answering it, and will probably prompt me to elaborate at great length on my original answer. The simple truth is that rhetorical questions are almost always really easy to answer but are frequently presented as somehow either being deep or funny. They are neither, as can be seen quite easily when you answer them.

Allow me to demonstrate with a few rhetorical questions from this page, oddly labeled “Stupid Facts: Rhetorical Questions”. I think they’re supposed to be funny, but something went horribly wrong.

  • Q: “If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?”

    A: It depends on how you define “several”. If “several” means “three,” it’s unlikely that he will become disoriented. If “several” means “a few dozen,” disorientation may occur. This is true of pretty much all people, not just those of Asian descent. More importantly, why the hell would you spin around a random Oriental person?* And didn’t we stop calling them “Oriental” about 30 years ago?**

  • Q: “Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist but a person that drives a race car is not called a racist?”

    A: Even by its own tortured internal logic, the question doesn’t make sense. “Race” is an adjective used to describe a car, so if everyone must be labeled by their activities, someone who drives a race car should be a “carrist”, or possibly a “race carrist”. Put in simple language, they’re not called a racist because that would be fucking idiotic.

  • Q: “‘I am’ is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?”

    A: No.

* Maybe they’re your figure-skating partner, though in that case I suspect they would have ways of avoiding disorientation. Or you could be running an amusement park ride that involves spinning, and they’re riding it.

** Evidently not.

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