Grandma's Tales

April 27, 2007

Grammar – 33 The language of persuasion

Filed under: Language,My Other Avtaar — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:22 pm

Richard is an Englishman. He lives in Yorkshire, but you could say he lives in a wheelchair. He is tetraplegic, having been paralysed neck down in a diving accident.  He has this  electronic,  all-terrain wheelchair that looks like a small, open car. He moves by pressing a set of buttons with a stick held in his mouth.  He navigates by turning a joystick. I said “he lives in a wheelchair” because Richard loves to potter about and discover/learn/analyse things for himself. He is always swirling around in his vehicle and since his chair moves quite fast, it is often difficult to keep pace with him. If you go for a “walk” with him, you will find yourself jogging.
Richard does a lot of what he needs himself using his stick, but help, he certainly requires. Richard cannot use his hands to lift things. “Unfortunately,”  he said, “I have to take a lot of help from others.” Richard has made asking an art. His requests never sound demanding. In fact, you feel it is an honour to be able to help him.
There are two reasons why you feel that way. One, Richard is a fund of information. He is  well-read and has an extra-ordinary memory. Talking to him is pure joy. He always has something witty to add to your comments. You learn what “British humour” is when you have a conversation with him.
Two, the words he chooses and the way he constructs his sentences. It is difficult to refuse him anything. I carefully noted down his sentences. His is the perfect language for persusion. Here they are.
[1] “Do you think we could have fried eggs today?” (Clever. He wants fried eggs, but it sounds like it is the listener’s choice too.)
[2] “Would you like to open the window?” (Not “Please open the window” or “Open the window.”)
[3] “Could you help me sort out my desk?” (Richard cannot move his hands, so you will be doing everything, but you don’t mind that at all!)
[4] “May I have the binoculars, please?
[5] “When you’ve got a minute, would you come over to…?” (See the way that sounds. He’s saying “I’m not pressing you to do it now, but find the time to help me.”)
[6] “Do you mind keeping the book open, please?”
[7] “I’d like another piece of chicken, please.” (In his case,  it also means you cut it into small pieces.)
[8] “Is there some salt anywhere?”
[9] Once one of the wheels got stuck in the sand. I couldn’t lift it. Richard waited and as soon as a man came by, said, “Excuse me, there seems to be some trouble with the wheel. Do you have a minute to sort it out?” What do you think the man did?
[10] One afternoon he wanted to play a game of Scrabble. (Richard is a Professor.) He came up to me and said, “I challenge you to a game of Scrabble!” Naturally, I couldn’t refuse.
And when you help him he never fails to say, “That’ll do very well, thank you!” in a cheerful voice. Try these sentences and see if they help you succeed in your mission.

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