Six phrases and questions likely to confuse people with Asperger’s.

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Throughout this post, I will refer to people with Asperger’s as “Aspies.” This is not considered a derogatory term; it’s simply how we refer to ourselves.

First, we are not stupid. We also are not trying to be difficult when we say we don’t understand you. We don’t have a disease, and the vast majority of us would refuse a “cure,” if one were discovered, for such a development would be seen by many of us, myself included, as an attempt to commit genocide. Like other groups of people, we want to stay alive, as individuals, and as a culture.

We are, however, different from most people. Our brains are hard-wired in ways that are not typical, with the result that we do not think in the same manner as others. These differences give us certain advantages which we value, but the trade-off comes in the form of problems involving communication with non-Aspies. You can see this in fiction, to get used to the way we think, simply by watching (or reading) Star Trek stories which feature Vulcans, or the android named Data. The difficulties those characters have, when trying to communicate with the humans they encounter, are very much like what happens when Aspies and non-Aspies attempt communication. Why is this the case? The answer is simple:  Star Trek was written that way.

Here are some specific questions, and phrases, which many Aspies find particularly baffling. In each case, I will attempt to explain why this is so.

1. “Who do you think you are?” — Ask an Aspie this question, and you’re likely to simply be given his or her name, in response. Apparently, this offends some people, but please don’t ask me why, for I don’t understand it myself. If a person were to ask me this question, my first guess would be that the questioner simply forgot my name, and needs a reminder. The meaning of volume, voice tone, and body language are mysteries to us. Sometimes we can figure out these mysteries, but it doesn’t happen automatically — we have to reason our way through it, and that takes time, especially for nuances of communication which are based on emotions.

2. “What do you think you’re doing?” — My likely response to this question would be an honest one:  “I’m trying to understand what you’re saying, but it doesn’t seem to be working very well.” However, that’s an answer from an Aspie in his fifth decade of trying to understand other people, so I’ve had a lot of practice. An Aspie teenager, in school, might simply say, “I’m walking to class,” “I’m taking notes,” or something like that, and then get in trouble for “backtalk,” as it is called — when the student was simply answering the question, without intending any disrespect whatsoever. Whatever answer this confusing question gets, from one of us, that answer will be both literal, and honest. It is not in our nature to lie, but it is definitely in our nature to think, listen, speak, read, and write literally, and logically.

3. “Do that again!” / “Say that again!” — If we have done or said something which you don’t like, and you actually don’t want to witness a rerun, why would you demand one? We think, speak, and interpret what we hear in terms of the actual words which are spoken. There’s nothing wrong with thinking literally, and, frankly, it puzzles us why so many of you think in other ways, so much of the time. If you ask for, or demand, a repeat performance of something you didn’t like, from one of us, you’re quite likely to get one — and then you’ll get angrier, we’ll get even more confused, and absolutely nothing of value will have been accomplished. If, on the other hand, you refrain from using “x” to mean “not x” (since it doesn’t), and simply tell us exactly what you mean, communication will become much easier, for all concerned.

4. “Don’t get technical with me!” — As far as I can tell, this means that the speaker wants us to refrain from choosing our words with precision, but I could be wrong, for this is the most baffling item on this list, so far. Clarity of language is desirable, for it facilitates communication, and sometimes, technical terms are needed for this purpose. I don’t know what to suggest as a substitute for this phrase, since I don’t understand it, but I can assure you that using it, with an Aspie, is a complete waste of your time.

5. “What’s wrong with you?” — This is another baffling question. If asked very loudly, the most likely answers Aspies will give are “I have a headache,” or perhaps “Sudden-onset tinnitus,” with the cause, in each case, being simple:  from our point of view, the questioner is trying to deafen us, by yelling things which make no sense (at any volume). Do you like being shouted at, from close range? No? Well then, this is one way that we aren’t so different from non-Aspies, for we don’t like it either. Also:  it’s quite likely that we don’t see anything wrong with us at all, for, in this situation, we are not the ones shouting nonsense-questions, so you might even get this response:  “Nothing. What’s wrong withyou?” In such a situation, that isn’t backtalk — it’s a perfectly legitimate question, and we are not responsible for any emotion-laden, irrational response the non-Aspie questioner might display.

6. “I need this done yesterday!” — Many of us can explain, in detail, why time travel into the past is not permitted by the laws of physics, as they are currently understood. Those who request, or demand, reverse-time-travel, from an Aspie, should not be surprised to hear such an explanation. Ask us to flap our arms and fly, and the response will likely be similar.

I could give more examples, but I think the point has been made. We aren’t all alike, so the examples of hypothetical responses I gave, above, will vary from one Aspie to another. What isn’t likely to vary, though, is the confusion each of us experiences when things are said to us which make no sense, if interpreted literally. That’s the key to communicating with us:  when we hear something, we automatically use logic, and rational thought, to attempt to understand the literal meaning of what has been said to us. For many of us, that is the only meaning we can understand.

In my case (and probably in the cases of at least some other Aspies), this goes a little further: rational, literal, and logical interpretations of language are the only ones I want to understand. This is a self-protection mechanism, for the idea of losing even part of my ability to think clearly, and rationally, is extremely frightening to me. To pour a lot of effort into trying to think in non-Aspie ways, I fear, could damage my mind — if, that is, I was successful in the attempt. I don’t want to risk turning into a person who considers “x” and “not x” to be interchangeable, for one doesn’t equal negative one. To change, in this way, would effectively kill the person I am. It wouldn’t stop my heart from beating, of course, but some things are even worse than physical death. If such a change ever happened, I would look the same, and would have the same legal name, but I would no longer be RobertLovesPi. It makes perfect sense for me to be absolutely unwilling to risk something so dangerous.

In addition to the central importance of the fact that we think in literal terms, while others often don’t, Aspies have some other difficulties (or the rest of the world does, depending on your point of view). I attempted to describe these difficulties, which involve coping with the emotionalism and irrationality of numerous other people, in the examples of confusing phrases and questions given above. Emotionalism and irrationality are, to us, severe impediments to understanding anything, and we live our lives in a state of near-constant bombardment from both, since Aspies are outnumbered by non-Aspies by a huge margin. On this planet, to borrow a book title from Robert Heinlein, I live my life as a “stranger in a strange land.” I know that many other Aspies see life in a similar way, for that idea is embedded in the name of the largest online community created by and for Aspies, as well as others on the autism spectrum: If you are curious about how other Aspies view the things I have described above, or if you are, yourself, an Aspie in need of an temporary escape from social interaction with non-Aspies, you can find a great many of us at that website. (Also, if you want to find me there, just search for me, using the name of this blog — my not-at-all-secret identity, all over the Internet.)

[Note: this was originally posted on my personal blog,, on 24 August 2014. The target audience for this post is non-Aspies, but those with Asperger’s may find it interesting as well. Other posts on the same blog, related to Asperger’s, may be found at Most of the rest of my blog is devoted to my special interest — esoteric topics in geometry, especially polyhedra.]

64 thoughts on “Six phrases and questions likely to confuse people with Asperger’s.”


    • Ganondox on February 21, 2015

      “I attempted to describe these difficulties, which involve coping with the emotionalism and irrationality of numerous other people”

      It’s not emotional or irrational, it’s pragmatic. Not taking the addition information into account which clarifies the meaning is actually being irrational, the thing with aspies is they don’t realize the information is there in the first place. Said information comes from a combination of nonverbal cues and theory of mind.

      • superluminary on March 7, 2015

        It’s a narrower, possibly more “clean” channel.

    • Dubhghlas on March 7, 2015

      Then you, yourself, are entirely oblivious, and thus the gist of what was stated in the article, eludes you entirely.
      Perhaps…if you read it again, you may grasp it.

      If there is a response…then I will elucidate.

    • chuckalicious on March 7, 2015

      An interesting article. However as someone who is in the process of getting a diagnosis, I’m not sure I understand.

      I get the point that aspies may take those things literally, but wouldn’t they, after discovering that they had misinterpreted the situation, learn to understand the question so if it arose again they would understand the real meaning?

      I myself have slowly built up a dictionary of responses to “common social statements” over time which help to keep things going.

      Are you suggesting that either aspies never learn or that no one ever explains what they meant?

      • superluminary on March 7, 2015

        This is why it’s called a spectrum.

        • Deltaranger on June 4, 2015

          We are not able to ask questions easy so no one thinks to rephrase or explain why we happened to be on wrong page or get why the trouble is happening i still struggle with this and those are the main core problems with talking to others who don’t understand problems never think to just ask straight up or help us understand why we did so before they judge us we can’t just carry a translation manual or sign saying I look normal but am not due to autism and when not helped at young age we struggle worse while struggling daily to get by in our adult life and outsiders don’t try to understand us when we are never going meet again

    • teddybowties on March 7, 2015

      I am so confused now, and I know my aspie father must be. When I first ‘discovered’ that I probably had Asperger’s or something similar, I wept. It felt right, you know? It was the closest thing to what I was noticing in myself in terms of symptomology. But recently I went to an evaluator to get state help, and she was just… radiating this… disbelief of me. ;( the other two evaluators radiated NOTHING. ever since I realized I could feel other people’s energy as a probable aspie, I found I could read body language easier, after years of fighting my way out of my head. I was lucky, I was born with the ability to speak, and not as many of the stronger quirks. Anyway, this woman, she evaluated me as paranoid because I made a joke about manifestos and told her I was very private… I guess. I even told her about all the paranoid things my mom does that my father and I point out to her… because we don’t do them. who knows why this woman said I was paranoid, but now, I dunno. I felt like maybe Asperger’s was right. so, when I look at these questions, I can see my father, if indeed I too am aspie, then he is the hypermale type, and I am the ‘more microcolumns’ type, which often gets ignored by the medical community, or mislabeled as paranoid. I too struggle with theory of mind, but I started looking for things to fill the holes, once I realized they were there. ;) To imply that aspies cannot do this… is just… hrm. I always find it to be a possible symptom of a subset of aspies.

      • outlander on March 8, 2015

        Teddy, you said:
        “When I first ‘discovered’ that I probably had Asperger’s or something similar, I wept. It felt right, you know? It was the closest thing to what I was noticing in myself in terms of symptomology.”
        ——–Amen brother, Only in my case it was my wife and I and we laughed our heads off because finally we had something that explained me. I had seen other experts trying to figure out my communication difficulites and they did find and describe my communication quirks but they were not looking for Aspergers and did not identify it even though it all matched up. Fortunately they just shrugged and said that they did not know.

        Teddy, you also observed:
        “But recently I went to an evaluator to get state help, and
        – she was just… radiating this… disbelief of me.
        – the other two evaluators radiated NOTHING. ……
        – Anyway, this woman, she evaluated me as paranoid because I made a joke about manifestos
        – and told her I was very private… I guess. I even told her about all the paranoid things my mom does that my father and I point out to her… because we don’t do them.
        – who knows why this woman said I was paranoid, but now, I dunno. I felt like maybe Asperger’s was right. …..
        – I am the ‘more microcolumns’ type, which often gets ignored by the medical community, or mislabeled as paranoid…. ”

        ————-This is one of reasons that so many “Aspi self-tests” include something about “mistrust authority figures” They so often get us wrong, and rather than being useless their “professional diagnoses” can be dangerous to us. Some of these so called experts are simply ignorant and frankly I would rather be accurately characterized as “prone to misunderstand people’s meaning” rather than “paranoid” because, “paranoid” is just a bit short of criminal and most people think it is a characteristic of dangerous criminal crazy people. I would sure hate to have the district attorney present expert testimony to a jury that I was “paranoid – crazy” Unfortunately those expert diagnoses get written down and become a permanent record that can dog our heels.

        My most frequent problem that has brought repercussions has been being told by bureucrats who were in positions of power that I was lying to them, when in fact I was being entirely honest. And since they trusted in their own ability to discern truth. I was stuck! So in short you are not paranoid if they really are trying to get you either inadvertently or through gross ignorance.

        Yeah, sometimes we do look dishonest or paranoid to NT’s, it doesn’t mean that we are.

    • superluminary on March 7, 2015

      Good article. I also have a dictionary, however my son appears to find these difficult. Another tricky one is “would you like to …” as in “would you like to clear the table for me”. A command phrased as a question. The obvious and polite answer being “no thank you”.

      • kat8615 on March 8, 2015

        My mum says the “would you like to” thing to me all the time! I took me years to get it!

    • bramcohen on March 7, 2015

      Most of these can be understood with straightforward substitutions.

      “Who do you think you are?” -> “You’re acting entitled.”

      “What do you think you’re doing?” -> “You’re behaving inappropriately.”

      “Do that again!” / “Say that again!” -> “You just did/said something completely inappropriate.”

      “Don’t get technical with me!” -> “You’re missing the point.”

      “What’s wrong with you?” -> “You’re behaving inappropriately” (Might mean somewhat different things, depending on context)

      “I need this done yesterday!” -> “I need this done as soon as possible, and it’s extremely urgent.”

      Ironically when neurotypicals imply something but don’t outright say it they’re doing it to reduce conflict, so the argument doesn’t have to be tackled head on. Of course if the person they’re talking to doesn’t understand what’s being implied, that makes more conflict rather than less.

      • Malfeasant on March 10, 2015

        could you explain what ‘entitled’ means in this context? i hear it a lot lately, and it seems to mean something different depending on who says it. i can understand being entitled to something, or not, but just entitled? entitled to what?

        • smaurine82 on March 18, 2015

          When someone says you are acting “entitled” and does extrapolate on the meaning, they are generally referring to a behavior you just displayed that they viewed as you assuming something is owed to you when they disagree. If they have observed/interpreted this behavior in you more than once, they might describe you as entitled to say that you assume more than one thing is owed to you that is actually not.

          For example, if someone blames a missed doctor appointment on the receptionist not giving them their normal reminder call, the receptionist may say to her coworker, “He is so entitled.” In her mind, the call is a courtesy and not something you should expect, despite that fact that you have come to expect it based upon her usual calls. I hope that did not make it more confusing.

    • momsparky on March 7, 2015

      Hmmm. I guess I could agree that the need to translate all of these phrased all the time is exhausting, but I don’t agree with the implication that the AS way is “right” and the NT way is “wrong,” and therefore NTs need to change how they speak. It reminds me of Huckleberry Finn, where Huck asks Jim what he would do if someone asks him “polly-voo-franzy.”

      Putting the onus on NTs is also not an approach that is going to meet with success. We are a minority community that the NT world barely acknowledges, let alone knows have particular needs when it comes to communication. While, as a parent to a child with AS (in addition to having it myself) I find it valuable to know the AS way of processing language, I also want my son to learn that it is important to advocate for what he needs, but also to learn how to manage if those needs aren’t met.

      I don’t think it is any less reasonable for someone to learn to speak French while living in France than it is for someone to learn to navigate pragmatics when among NTs. Learning French does not make you any less able to speak your native language; it’s an add-on.

    • Bodyles on March 7, 2015

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that Aspies can’t do any particular thing per se, nor do I believe that this was necessarily the author’s intent. It’s just that we have difficulties that stem from our tendency/compulsion towards hyperlogical responses to inquiries.

      Personally, I’ve learned to strike a sort of balance between the compulsion that drives me to respond in these ways and my learned understanding that, confusing & frustrating as it may be for me to interpret, people often don’t actually mean what they say, especially when it comes to inquiries.
      For instance, with the “Would you like to…?” issue that superluminary points out so well, my response is:
      “Not particularly, but would you like me to…?”
      Other responses include:
      “Not really, but I will if you ask me to.” &
      “No, but I will if you want me to.”

      Still, I will tend to default to a logical response or a statement of confusion and/or request for clarification if I’m distracted or thinking about other things & not in a social interaction mode where I’m paying attention to stuff like that.

      I think that, ironically, the problem some of the people replying to this article are having is that they are interpreting it a bit too literally & taking it as an absolute statement about a specific difficulty that is required to be an aspie.
      Pretty sure if you’re doing that, you’re proving the author’s point & showing yourself to be an aspie.
      So no worries teddybowties. ;)

      In any case, I think the author’s point is well made about our tendency & general compulsion towards logical responses & the confusion which can so often result from the use by allistics of non-logical colloquialisms which we are unfamiliar with.

      I would like to point out, however, that in my experience most allistics don’t benefit from explanations such as this very much because for some reason they seem to have trouble generalizing their understandings of our issues.
      Most allistics would read an explanation like this article’s & at best take away from it that we have trouble only those particular questions and phrases listed in the article, and perhaps those listed in the replies if they bother to read through them, rather the broader understanding of our compulsion towards logical responses which the author seems to intend.
      In other words, I think it’s unlikely that an allistic reading this article would then be able to in general anticipate our responses to their illogical communications outside of the specific examples listed in it, which is unfortunate.

      I’ve learned that I have to teach my pet allistics how to properly phrase their communications to recieve the desired response from me on a case by case basis, much as I myself have had to, over the years, learn appropriate responses to allistic social communications & colloquialisms on a case by case basis.
      I just love the beauful symmetry of the situation, don’t you? ;)

    • SavantMom on March 7, 2015

      These questions are rude, condescending and agressive. No one can answer them correctly and I view them as more likely to cause conflict due to the rudeness and the disrespect that comes with them. They assume that the victim of such questioning is at fault. If my son is asked “who do you think you are” he replies with “who do you think you are” and I personally think that is the best response, autistic or not. It is much more polite to explain the rules and the violation, assuming positive intent on the part of the person you believe is in violation, than to ask accusatory questions. I like the aspie answers better!

    • Myrtonos on March 7, 2015

      There are two phrases here I’ve never heard before: “Don’t get technical with me!” and “I need this done yesterday!”

    • [email protected] on March 7, 2015

      I can’t deal with the complaint, “Your reasoning is too convoluted.” A convolution is nothing more than a product of overlapping functions that have a dependent variable shift between the functions and are in an integral that has limits from negative infinity to positive infinity. It is a tool used in digital signal processing, there is nothing invalid about it. When asked where such a calculation is found in how I reason something I can’t get an answer I assume because I almost never use convolution integrals in reasoning solutions to problems.
      I have been able to glean from what people who are endowed with that exotic well-neigh savant cognitive faculty called theory of mind say that those who make the complaint do not know what a convolution is but know that it is a labor demanding calculation and they dismiss any reasoning that, like a convolution of two functions, requires following too many logic steps and/or calculations to follow because they are too lazy to follow it and under the fascism of totalitarian democracy, the masses will peremptorily dismiss it is invalid because it cannot be presented as a quick easy to follow slogan or catch phrase. In short, such a complaint is an outright rejection of reason and logic. It seems to translate, “This reasoning is too complicated so I reject it even if it proves itself correct.”

      • Bodyles on March 7, 2015

        To be fair, you’re using an unreasonably esoteric definition of the term convolution, which you appear to have deliberately cherry-picked as the one which most people aren’t, and don’t have any reason to be, aware of as it is particular to advanced mathematics.

        The other, more commonly used, known, and understood definition (see below), “a coil or twist, especially one of many,” is almost certainly the definition being used by allistics who are complaining that your reasoning is ‘twisted’ in such a way that they can not follow it, which is often a reasonable complaint about reasoning.

        In fact, within that common definition listed under the root ‘volute’ it says “a thing that is complex and difficult to follow” which is exactly what people are saying about your reasoning when they refer to it as convoluted.

        Therefore your complaint about people in general calling your reasoning convoluted is a result of your deliberate decision to cherry pick an unreasonably esoteric definition of a word with a more commonly used, known, and understood definition, rather than the fault of allistics making illogical communicative statements.

        Thanks for playing, though.

        A simple Google search reveals this:

        noun: convolution; plural noun: convolutions; noun: convolution integral; plural noun: convolutions integral

        a coil or twist, especially one of many.
        “crosses adorned with elaborate convolutions”
        synonyms: twist, turn, coil, spiral, twirl, curl, helix, whorl, loop, curlicue;
        “crosses adorned with elaborate convolutions”
        a thing that is complex and difficult to follow.
        “the convolutions of farm policy”
        synonyms: complexity, intricacy, complication, twist, turn, entanglement
        “the convolutions of the plot”
        a sinuous fold in the surface of the brain.
        the state of being coiled or twisted, or the process of becoming so.
        “the flexibility of the polymer chain allows extensive convolution”
        a function derived from two given functions by integration that expresses how the shape of one is modified by the other.

        • Malfeasant on March 10, 2015

          hey now. i can think of a few times i’ve learned a word in a specific setting, thought that word was unique to that setting, never realizing it had a much more common meaning in general that i just hadn’t ever come across before… no need to assume drbarney1 is doing it intentionally.

    • LonelyButterfly on March 7, 2015

      What I find most difficult is when people say they want to help you -like a supervisor-but they are really trying to stab you in the back or set you up. I don’t know why I’m so eternally optimistic/ naïve- even when the same person continuously hurts me – I will give them chance after chance- like a wide-eyed idiot.

    • Bignatz on March 7, 2015

      Please be careful about the use of the word “genocide”. It’s a term that very specifically refers to the act of killing a group of people based on their religion, ethnicity, or race, based on the perception of the people being “othered” by those committing the act(s). Using the term as you do is offensive to some people, particularly those (such as myself) come from one of the groups of people who were on the receiving end of attempted genocide. You can call it attempted eugenics or social engineering, but not Genocide.

      • ShyGigyas on April 30, 2015

        I actually did understand what context he was using the word in, but yeah it could be misinterpreted as the literal meaning to others.

    • ImpulsIve on March 7, 2015

      I had a hard time learning that when people ask “how are you?” they don’t really want to know.

    • kryptonian on March 7, 2015

      “That’s the key to communicating with us: when we hear something, we automatically use logic, and rational thought, to attempt to understand the literal meaning of what has been said to us.”

      Simply yet elegantly said.

      So many problems I had with that, especially in my youth.

      A fifth-grade teacher asked us to find out the “weight” of the Earth (not its mass, which is what she really wanted). So I did and when I correctly answered “Zero” the next day I was mocked by my classmates for being an idiot – again, as I had been mocked so many times before for correctly answering questions that were improperly phrased. My sole friend at the time gave me the nickname “Loophole” because he recognized that my answers were correct, but they seemed to him to be technicalities.

      This lasted into adulthood; at the unemployment office I was asked to do an exercise, which read: “Give a succinct summary of your past employment”. So I did exactly that, giving company names, relevant dates, names of supervisors, beginning and ending salaries and a one-line description of my job. The lady who conducted this exercise took one look and told me “Oh, no. This is all wrong. You need to flesh out your job description …” and I saw that she was about to go into a “What Color is Your Parachute” rant. So I pointed out the instruction that asked for a “succinct summary” of my employment and to my astonishment she agreed and took a note to herself while telling me that they would need to revise the wording. About the only time in my life that someone actually understood me and realized that I wasn’t trying to be a smartass. Only the ring on her finger and the fact that I was unemployed kept me from proposing to her on the spot.

    • Statler on March 7, 2015

      For someone who says “rational, literal, and logical interpretations of language are the only ones I want to understand,” you certainly play fast and loose (and offensive) with the term “genocide.”

      Also, scare quotes around the word “cure”? Really? I would love a cure for my AS. It’s a disability, and all the pretending we do (yes, I’m including myself) about how NTs don’t use language right because what they say is not literal is simply coddling ourselves. You cannot reasonably claim that the vast majority of people are using language wrong, because they are capable of layering multiple meanings into an utterance, some of which remain forever beyond us. I’m guilty of it, too, when I get frustrated and angry that I was the only one in the room who didn’t get something someone said. So, yes, I would give a lot for a cure, especially after the party I went to this evening.

    • raymond_j_ritchie on March 8, 2015

      The best one I ever got was the response of the post-graduate committee when I applied to start a PhD at the University of Sydney.
      I was asked “Ray, do you want to do a PhD?”
      I gave the obvious answer “Yes.” – after all why was I sitting there in front of the committee.
      One Professor who knew me quite well asked “Why Ray?”
      I gave them a perfectly sensible answer “Because I have always wanted one!”
      I guess I was supposed to say something profound. Their response was stunned silence, but they let me in.

    • raymond_j_ritchie on March 8, 2015

      I am a NERD (60y) and almost certainly Asberger’s but as you should know such things did not exist when I was young. I am an Associate Prof in biophysics.
      One of the biggest problems I have had in life is that I look as thick as a brick and I am always being mistaken for an idiot. Why do some people look intelligent and others do not? What cues are people using? Obviously I fail miserably. The number of times I have been mistaken for the janitor or the cleaner!
      At a Plant Science conference in St Louis when I was a Post-doc in the US I was wandering around the conference looking at the posters. A suit came up to me and yelled “You! Get back to your job” – pointing to the floor polisher. I responded rudely in my Australian accent and he suddenly started grovelling. I felt no reason to let him off.
      US Customs always gave me trouble. They would look at my J-1 visa and look at me and just could not believe I was doing post-doctoral fellowships in the US. One tried to show off his college science. He asked me how do mitochondria make ATP. I told him and he stamped by passport really hard.
      Last year at UTS Sydney I was very nearly arrested and run off a campus. I was sitting outside a lecture theatre. I was deemed suspicious and the campus police were called. I was waiting to give the lunchtime seminar.

      • kaprikei on April 9, 2015

        Raymond, you asked what cues people are using. I don’t know anything about your appearance and don’t want to offend you by making any assumptions, but I’m guessing appearance might be relevant. I would think the cues might be a way of dressing (being dressed ‘appropriately’ for the role and context, dressing reasonably smartly and looking reasonably groomed) and maybe also facial expressions. I had some tutors at university who were quite unkempt in their appearance – they were seen like mad professor types and totally accepted. But in a way I can see how, outside of their context, they might look odd to other people. I think if somebody dresses or grooms him/herself in a way that is unusual compared to the majority, some people automatically think (unconsciously) “ok this person is not attending to their appearance in a way that is usual, therefore there is something abnormal about them, therefore I should be on my guard”.

        Sorry if this is ridiculously obvious or irrelevant – you might be dressed really well with a great haircut :)
        I just thought I’d give it a general guess in case it might be helpful.

      • kaprikei on April 9, 2015

        Also those were my thoughts on looking suspicious, rather than on looking ‘thick as a brick’ as you put it! I’m really not sure what cues make someone look intelligent.

        Have you ever asked anyone you know to tell you why they think this might be happening? Maybe some direct NT insight would be useful. I sometimes ask my friends how I am coming across, and what effect things that I say have on other people.

    • Navarrete854 on March 8, 2015

      I agree with the author of this article. Don’t try to be someone else or you will eventually become other person. That is what happened to me.
      I tried so hard to fit in and be like those people I hated, and after the years I became one of them. That leaded to a huge personality crysis for me. I didn’t know who I was. It felt like I had been replaced for someone else but with the memories of a person which doesn’t exist anymore.
      This is not reversible, so eventually I had to accept it.
      It’s not that bad, as I find it relatively easy to fit in, but one should note what you did sacrifice to get there: yourself.

      So please, stay true to yourselves, or you will become like me.

      • Malfeasant on March 10, 2015

        i have to wonder how old you are… because i know the feeling, the blending in, and i think it’s only temporary- at least it seems that way for me. i’m near 40 and all the social confusion and shit that i thought i left behind in my childhood seems to be coming back for an encore- only when i was little, at least i was somewhat cute and some people would tolerate my weirdness, now, not so much.

    • korneyinkansas on March 8, 2015

      Great comment Navarrete854. The consequences of not being “your own true self.” !

    • crelus on March 8, 2015

      ” Our brains are hard-wired in ways that are not typical, with the result that we do not think in the same manner as others”

      I cant’ speak for anyone other than myself, but in my case I have to disagree with this.

      I have seen several articles that describe that actual physical brain difference between people with Asperger’s and people who do not have it as such:

      “In particular, children with the disorder appear to have a smaller corpus callosum — the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This finding supports the ‘connectivity theory’ of autism, which holds that people with the disorder have weak connections between far-reaching brain regions.”

      SO what is the point? The point is not that we are ‘hard wired’ but rather our brains work like a car with a standard transmission rather than one with automatic transmission. We don’t get all of the data preprocessed with a determination on the best course of action handed to use. We get the individual data feeds and have to determine this ourselves.

      As is the case with someone who loses one of their senses (say a blind person) the other senses will become enhanced to pick up the slack. Is it possible that by working in separate parallel spaces an Asperger’s brain can become more developed or stronger in each area?

      This is also not a bad thing. I have found that claims of people with Asperger’s ‘not getting the gist’ are wrong because the problem is really that people lie. They lie to themselves, they lie to others, and they want to believe the lies.

      For example, if a girl asks ‘do I look good in this dress’ the problem is not that you are not putting together the right signals. The problem is that she wants to believe she looks good. In some cases this is already true. In other cases the girl herself may already be aware at one level or another she DOES NOT look good in the dress, but if you lie to her and tell her she does she may be happy.

      I say ‘may’ because the key in this case is telling her in a convincing manner. If you say ‘um…er..yes…you..sure do’ then your hesitation indicates that you do not think she looks good even if your words do.

      So the problem is not that you must ‘get the gist’. The problem is you must understand what the person wants to hear and then, if needed, lie to them in a convincing manner.

      I’m not advocating doing this, but you will see several groups of people in society who do. Politicians, advertisers, the ‘news’ media, talk show hosts, etc…

      In the end there are two types of people. Those that want to control us and those that want to be controlled. Those being controlled don’t want to hear the truth and those doing the controlling don’t want you to even know it exists.

      Sorry, but I really think someday people will look back and realize that the ‘problem’ people with Asperger’s have with society is not based on our dysfunction but rather us identifying the problems with society.

      • Endront on March 8, 2015

        I greatly enjoyed, reading your comment on this article. Thank you.

        I also have noticed that, NTs tend to either, lie to themselves or to themselves and, others.

        It is very frustrating. Thank you again for voicing this observation. It allowed me to see, for the first time in my life, that someone else, had made, what i thought to be a simple observation and, that i am not alone in this realization.

      • smaurine82 on March 18, 2015

        As a mental health therapist I just want to say that you “hit the nail on the head.” You verbalized a concept that non-Aspies view abstract because they’ve not been able to put words to it. One of the things I love about my job is using words to explain what is happening socially and perhaps I learned to love this as a result of growing up with an Aspie dad and brother. Thank you so much for sharing your very true observation!

      • targahs on March 23, 2015

        Great comment, very inspiring . Thanks.

    • maryshap on March 8, 2015

      There is a logic to how NTs communicate– they are just unaware of it themselves and so unable to explain it to you. As a professor of sociolinguistics, I have created a website, primarily intended to help explain some of these issues to my autistic son. (And no, I’m not trying to change him, just to answer some of his questions, to help lessen some of his frustrations, to help him learn from others instead of having to reinvent the wheel in every conversation he has.) I got some of my students to help develop materials for the site as a class project (which helped teach them a lot about how people on the spectrum communicate, as well as expanded the site with audio and video examples). I hope that it is respectful of all people (who have different levels of ability and different motivations) — but I am very happy to get feedback about it, if any of you wish to check it out. (It is completely non-profit, hosted by my University, with no distracting ads — but there are occasional technical glitches, depending on what platform you’re using….)

    • rollermonkey on March 8, 2015

      Heh heh. My usual reaction to numbers 1, 2 and 5 was always one of confusion. As far as I’m concerned I know who I am, I know what I’m doing and there’s nothing wrong with me. Eventually, my response for #5 became “I don’t know. What do YOU think is wrong with me?” As with so many of our attempts to understand NTs, this was typically not met with a positive response.

      The real issue for me was that after a couple decades of being asked these questions, self doubt eventually builds, and the belief that maybe they were right and there was something wrong with me starts to creep in. Down that road lies depression, something I recently realized that I’ve been battling for a very long time.

    • robt105 on March 11, 2015

      3,4,and 6 are statements. Just sayin.

    • datadad on March 12, 2015

      I once had a social worker (“the best” I was told) tell me:

      “…make sure you tell him (the shrink) what we are talking about (in her the S/Worker sessions).
      Well my natural Aspie response was “What exactly did you want me to tell him?”
      She gave a facial look which I wasn’t going to figure out right away because I wanted to get this conversation so right!
      So she continued to stare at me, so I repeated the question, “What exactly did you want me to tell him?” (Cause this was important to me), She walked away from me left me standing in a hallway.
      Later my shrink said”She doesn’t want to see you anymore.”
      I immediately remembered the “When” something went wrong, (she left me standing in the hallway) but it took me time to “re-run and re-run the conversation in my head to process the “Why” (why a professional social worker left me in the hallway alone).
      I later concluded the facial expression was indeed in the neighborhood of anger or disbelief.)
      So my professional Aspergers opinion of “Professionals? “Don’t expect non-asperger trained “Professionals” to understand.”
      I was crushed and devastated after I processed this (weeks later).

      So a N.T. person might say:
      Did they know I was Aspergers?
      Answer: Yes, I told them a year ago.
      Why didn’t I explain it to them what was happening?
      Answer: It didn’t occur to me until many weeks later.
      Even if I did try to explain the specifics and complexities of living with aspergers to a “Professional Outsiders” that would be overwhelming for me.

      So if you have to go to the non-trained doctors in aspergers (“Professional Outsiders”) just say “yes” or “ok” to everything and save yourself a lot of grief. But wait I see a problem with my advice: I have aspies and its difficult to… lie.

    • Lintar on March 17, 2015

      No one seems to have mentioned the reassurace that ‘you can be honest with me’, when someone who thinks they can handle constructive criticism actually can’t. I can’t be honest with anyone who says this, because as soon as I am honest with them they become rude, defensive, and irrational, and I am left wondering why they even asked in the first place.

    • smaurine82 on March 18, 2015

      I loved this article, so much so that I shared it with my father who I suspect has AS. The whole thing made me smile because everything stated reminds me of my father and my brother. The familiarity of confusing conversations is humorous to me. My father often says, “I get confused easily.” When we were young we would jokingly call him Data, from Star Trek. I had never thought about Data’s character being intentionally similar to individuals with AS. If that is true, I think it is a brilliant idea to help non-aspies better understand what you go through.

      It’s been a long journey for me as well in my attempts to better understand the way Aspies communicate and that they do not intend to be rude or obtuse, but are genuinely confused. The difficulty I’ve had with my brother is that he assumes that I am “stupid” for not understanding him or articulating my meaning in a more precise way. In turn I had labeled him as mean, but once I realized he’s just frustrated with communication attempts, I began putting in more effort to communicate precisely what I mean, “covering all bases” (i.e., addressing anything that may be confusing for him). I have learned to take his frustration and anger less personally. In my exasperation with trying to communicate effectively with my brother I think I begin to grasp the frustration Aspies experience when trying to communicate with non-Aspies.

      In reply to some comments I read,

      No, Aspies can never innately understand an alternative meaning to a statement, nonverbal queues, or the way you say something (like the tone and influx of your voice). They can work hard to learn and recognize these variables, but it will always be work for them to analyse each situation and decide which knowledge/experience would best explain the intended conveyed meaning. This analysis takes time and is thus impossible to do in the moment especially when emotions are rampant and they are feeling extremely confused. Imagine stepping into a world of all Aspies; how would you feel when you attempted to communication? What do you think Aspies must feel on a daily basis? Living in this socially confusing world takes a lot of effort and work. So if you have a loved one with AS it is your responsibility to work toward better communication with them also. They don’t need to change. They aren’t broken. We just have to work harder to understand each other.

    • narcolepticpenguin on April 20, 2015

      My autism and I have been together a while,I have made a life around discuising my manurisms but at times I slip,and its no big deal, my condition requires me to constantly see everything! I was at a party about a month ago,it got kinda wild and what I was thinking about was how the girl across the room reminded me of eor from winnie the pooh how she kepts whining and moaning about how hard her life was in a degrading moaning voice,or how the big guy had something negative to say about everyone yet when they asked me what I thought about,to myself I thought well I dont want to offend anyone since I was invited by my friend who owned the house,so I said just stuff,and of course they would press in and id shut down and kinda stare off at the tv. these people knew me and know im inteligent enough to baffle the psychologist,and the chemist that coe over to play magic the gathering so they know there is more to my mind than what I let on. but there is was I could not bring myself to speak because debbie downer was killing the mood and I did not wish to bring it down further,but I was unsure how to say that without offending my friend.

    • Roadkill1953 on April 23, 2015

      They never really made sense to me, since I was a kid I learned to associate the sayings as insults or indicators of being in trouble.
      Constantly got in trouble for taking things too literally, or being too technical. Very frustrating.
      I am often just as lost as dr Brennan on bones in similar situations. It’s never been mentioned if she is an aspie, as far as I know.

    • Gogu Bordel on June 27, 2015

      Interesting article. I’m here to share my story and maybe give you some answers to your questions. Believe it or not, until the age of ~10 I was autistic 100%, but I was somehow “cured” until the age of 15. I’ll explain next what happened. I have no emotional recordings or memories before the age of 14/15, although I can remember a lot of facts, a huge lot of images, but not as if they were things that happened to me or I have been involved in, but more like images from some movies, or pictures, like my “self-consciousness” was not yet developed.
      I lived with my two brothers and some of their friends (I should have said also my friends, although judging now as I know how friendship feels like, it’s fair to say their friends) in a neighborhood which was closed to a large river and some fishing lakes, also there has been some new construction sites in the area back then. They were not obedient children so to speak, not to say little anti-social elements, and settled down much later in life. I was not listening to my parents but not in the same way as them, I was literally not listening, (but not able to listen, like a blind man cannot see), they were like talking back. However, I tried to understand this conflict between my brothers and my parents because I was disturbed by the intensity of their voices when arguing each other, and could not stand it anymore. I remember I even felt a shadow of empathy for my parents instead of my brothers and because of that I started to listen to them as a negative reaction to my brothers’ behavior. As I had to go out and play with them, I was told to imitate them every time I would be stuck. But they were restless, so I had to go with them in a lot of “adventures”, from fishing, stealing fruits out of people’s gardens, wrestling, playing football, swimming naked in lakes after fishing from early morning until late afternoon, climbing trees, climbing unfinished construction sites also at night (very dangerous for anybody at any age even during the daylight), discovering porn magazines, fighting each other sometimes, trying to steal a boat, braking into a school at night, and so on. All these actions were done in a group, and one which was moving from one place to another all the time, with common spontaneous decisions as the age differences were 1 to 2 years at most.
      One just could not stay behind and take his time thinking to something else (as I used to), as I would be lost. A couple of times I discovered myself left behind and fighting very hard with the feeling that if I don’t make the effort to catch-up I’ll remain literally lonely forever, with the little piece of paper or tree that caught my attention. I guess something has broken inside me and chose to spit my lungs out running to catch up with the rest of the group.
      Every day we were going some different place than in the last couple of months, the only links with the known world were the guys from the group and became of course also my “objects” of study, thinking a lot about what and why they say something, why they laughed at something and became nervous sometimes, angry, and so on. I gave a lot of thought to all these expression of feelings but only before going to sleep, because during the day I usually had no time to think, we were always on the run. The combination of fear and pleasure that became stronger and stronger like in an addiction, somehow triggered a reorganization of my values’ hierarchy. I gradually became addicted to feelings, seeking them actively after some periods of intense interest into some unique and simple element. Also I was not very fit physically and soon started to fall asleep without swinging my head (because I felt quite tired and didn’t need to). Little by little I started to have quicker and sloppier responses to questions, and found out that because the time to react MUST BE very short, automatically the answer HAS to be an approximation, thus leading to involuntary humor in it’s purest definition. So I started to laugh myself finally feeling/understanding what a joke is and why the others were laughing. Also trying to synthesize long answers into the shortest ones takes talent (and if talent is not present, an effort must be put in it).

      I gave a lot of thought during my experiences and I guess they are all linked together, one thing leading to another: the strong fear (you must feel it when a guardian is shooting at you with a salt bullets) mixed with the unique pleasure of a kid’s “stealing”, plus the “understanding” of humor as a pure form of maximal efficiency in communication, made myself keen to understand people even more, knowing now that there are a lot of “treasures” hidden behind a smile and a blink.
      Much later I understood it has to do also with the rhythm of consuming the psychical energy, I was permanently consuming my psychical energy on items that were not deserving so much interest instead of saving it for when it would be worth having a “opportunistic” reaction that I enjoyed very much later when I discovered this is called spontaneity. For it to happen one must have a sleep very sound at night. But I had trouble falling asleep (and I still have) so I discovered that I need to read something boring to fall asleep even though I don’t feel like, and imagine that I’ll have a hard day tomorrow.

      One may say that all these are just techniques based on scientific observations of normal people behavior that I imposed to myself, and actually I’m not “cured”, but I learned to fake it, by the most brutal method of sudden insertion in the middle of the action.
      It may be so, I cannot know for sure, and don’t know if it’s something to recommend or not, but all I know that even if some people first learn by heart and than realize it with the brain, probably for me was the other way round, first realize it with the brain and because I enjoyed also the pleasure of discovery, I assimilated them with my heart: the truth is that the outcome is the same as for a regular guy and that’s what matters to me.

      Even my autistic qualities diminished considerably in the latest 25-30 years, now I cannot pass the 1100 rating on “”, but I bet when I was 13 I could have easily be rated 2000 had the site existed 30 years ago. I guess this is because being normal also takes effort (another type of effort, but still a lot of it), and that is for the other autistic people to remember.

      I’m sorry for my spelling mistakes, but English is not a language I speak, I learned it from movies.

    • Duthsa on July 22, 2015

      I’m new here, and not exactly diagnosed yet, but man. So spot on…this is a new world for me, because at 49, i have learned to cope…I just now got why my Family would say;’We know that isn’t logical Mr.Spock’, that sort of thing, would leave me wondering. I never got the point hey were making, I was lost trying to figure out how that made the not-logical statement, logical. Im not sure I get it even now…How many times have I said something like, how does that makes sense? to sarcasm esp. The funny part is, they thought I was being sarcastic about the sarcasm,and I was actually kind of ticked off they never answered the question…not realizing in their minds, they had…They point out the character Sheldon, and I to this day don’t get what is so funny about him? He makes sense to me, who is that so funny? Or with Spock, or DATA, still do not get it. To me, they were the only ones who make any sense at all! “Go figure’ is a verb to me. Someone got really mad at me, thinking I was being a smart ass, and told me to go F myself. I missed the real point, and tried to explain why that is not actually possible unless they meant…oh god, never mind…I had to have it explained to me what was going on, weeks later I am like, OH, i get it..I think…

    • RobertLovesPi on September 7, 2015

      To those who have criticized my use of the word “genocide” in the original post, I wish to respond.

      Aspies form a population analagous is many ways to a racial or ethnic group. We have recognizable differences from non-Aspies. Much research has indicated that we have genetic similarities to each other which non-Aspies do not have — again, like an ethnic group. Over enough time (a million years or so), given even more reproductive isolation from non-Aspies than we have now, we could even speciate.

      If I did not hold all of those positions, I would not have used the word “genocide.” I hope the paragraph immediately explains why I chose this word. No offense was intended to any individual, nor any group.

    • AgusCahyo on September 19, 2015

      Wow. I am not an aspie then. If people ask who do you think you are, they probably do so because we act as if we have authority or power that in a sense offend others. Perhaps we cross a queue. So they ask who do you think you are? They expect us to answer, I am the president of US, which is of course not true. They’re telling, unless you’re somebody of higher rank than I am you shouldn’t do what you’re doing. I can process all this info.

      A true aspie can’t?

      Don’t get technical with me. Hmm… Neurotypicals don’t understand science. They speak in vague language that often leads to misunderstanding.

      What’s wrong with you? Are you retarded?

      I need this done yesterday. You’re late. Do it fast

      What do you think you’re doing? What you do is morally wrong and they want to make sure you know what you’re doing.

      Do that again? That’s a challenge. Again they think we did something wrong. They challenge us to do it again to show that we see the error of our way.

    • motorcyclemama on October 16, 2015

      I think ultimately aspies need logic to interpret questions like that.Language is not literal all times, phrases that denote one thing can mean something else entirely. We can learn, and it does get easier, but the gist is that things that are understood implicitly or intuitively by neurotypical people require thought and the application of logic to us. But we can learn and ultimately we might arrive at an understanding of society that is richer because it was thought about and analysed and tempered with experience rather than just given to us by instinct.

    • Boatie on October 30, 2015

      see you later!!

    • Sjero on December 21, 2015

      None of these phrases present much of a barrier to me but I have been studying this type of coded language since, I don’t know, maybe middle school, because it’s so f****** annoying to run into the wall due to one of these say nothing phrases. You kind of have to memorize the meanings of colloquialisms. Sometimes they make sense. Sometimes.

    • NoWooWoo on January 10, 2016

      The NT’s are Blackmailing us with “Woo Woo”

      4. “Don’t get technical with me!” Your “Precision” is easily defeated with my “Woo Woo”.
      Precision, Logic Rationality: That is What we are at the Core.

      The NT”s are throwing a Tantrum when do not automatically Prostrate to their Social Superiority.

      Non-Conformance to Social Mores and “NT Personality Quirks” is attacked with “Woo Woo”.

      Attacking the Original Poster for utilizing the word “GENOCIDE” is a Perfect example of NT’s Attacking with “WOO WOO” to send us into an emotional Tailspin.

      Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.

      adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey. Also n., a person who has mystical or new age beliefs.

      When used by skeptics, woo-woo is a derogatory and dismissive term used to refer to beliefs one considers nonsense or to a person who holds such beliefs.

    • Google on January 22, 2016


      Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated information, nonetheless really really worth taking a look, whoa did a single master about Mid East has got more problerms too.

    • Suumsuique on February 26, 2016

      I very well understand such phrases when i get the time to think them through such as right now behind my pc, i always (over?) analyse phrases, and even words. But if they were shouted at me in a tense situation i would probably freeze and become utterly confused. It happened before and it was NOT a pleasant experience.

    • broombie on March 8, 2016

      Best answer to these questions is no answer. Those people are trying to put you down and don’t expect an answer. Just look at them and say nothing.

    • namesalltaken on March 28, 2016

      Language use (especially idiomatic language) varies with cultural norms and the social circumstance, but here is my interpretation of these questions based on my experience of the Australian culture. No warranty or fitness for any purpose is implied and the usefulness and applicability of these interpretations may vary.

      1. “Who do you think you are?” acting “above your station” or beyond your level of authority or in a way that disregards someone’s (perceived) authority. This is effectively a rhetorical question, but is often used in an escalating confrontational situation.

      Best option is usually to deescalate the confrontation,
      a) unless there was a reason to raise the confrontation (e.g. asking why you have not been paid),
      b) the speaker is using it as a pure intimidation tactic or
      c) you stand to have a significant loss of face from doing so.

      2. “What do you think you’re doing?” Usually inferred that you are not ‘supposed to be’* doing whatever it is the one posing the question thinks you are doing.
      This rhetorical question is a riddle because you need to work out what the questioner thinks you are doing and why this is a problem. Answering honestly is actually a not half bad strategy and trying to solve the misunderstanding is also worthwhile.

      In this case it is the NT who has the incorrect mental model, assumes the situation is ‘obvious’ (perceived in the same way by both people), and for reasons of communication does not wish to raise it directly. Of course if you know what was is you were doing to cause exception…

      3. “Do that again!” / “Say that again!” Can be a dare/challenge or a shock reaction “did I interpret this correctly”, often a second chance before someone lashes out. You may have offended the speaker or initiated conflict, now they want confirmation of your intentions.

      4. “Don’t get technical with me!” Two meanings, somewhat related. Usually the speaker thinks you are trying to challenge them on a technicality (e.g “by contract I have an hour lunch break, so I still have 2:33 to finish this”), however in certain situations the speaker may be indicating that you are evading their question, deliberately missing their point, or giving information that is not relevant to their question [yes, NTs suffer from information overload too] (e.g giving a progress report to a manager who is not confident in the technical details of the work you are doing).

      5. “What’s wrong with you?” The questioner is becoming frustrated with their communication difficulties or inability to understand your behavior, and in typical human fashion deflects the blame onto the cause of their frustration. Here I can sympathize with my NT colleagues because such frustration is a constant everyday experience for me. To the NT’s reading, ever thought or said this? because it’s a daily reality that we all need to learn to deal with constructively.

      6. “I need this done yesterday!” One of my favorite statements, an absolute cop-out by management which usually goes down like this in my workplace “we all know that can’t happen, so how much of our time and resources should we dedicate to ‘this’ keeping in mind our other priorities?”. Cue an hour-long discussion of negotiating personnel and priorities which takes the meeting well over time.

    • [email protected] on March 31, 2016

      reading some of the discussion left me entirely convinced that it’s too much trouble to try and obtain relationships with NT’s.
      I laughed at the remark by a mum who learned not to ask “would you like to help…” as we will answer honestly. :)
      I enjoyed the article, for myself , I have learned the responses (appropriate) for these particular scenarios. Who/what do you THINk you are (doing) is a signal of hostility to me..because I interpret that as their assumption that what I am doing and what I think I’m doing are two different things… make any sense?
      it is a spectrum and I know some who don’t learn as well and some who’ve learned so well that you’d never suspect an issue.
      I like the point you make in general, we take things literally and don’t do well with hidden meanings.

      a wonderful article, thanks for sharing it.

    • HermanHesse on April 7, 2016

      I don’t understand why people my age decided to change the word literally to rob it of all meaning. Like literally, I never hear the word used correctly anymore. (sarcasm)

      The most miserable times they use this is when they say something. That might be possible and that makes it super-confusing. “I got so sick I was literally close to death.” Now I have no idea if he was pretty sick or if he was hospitalized.

    • Calcaware on May 1, 2016

      Some of these examples I had trouble with when I was <= 16 years old.
      Actually by studying linguistics and observing how people respond to more or less hypothetical or demeaning questions like this I learned to look at the context of the situation and any body language cues from the other person or people to find the most "socially rational" answer instead of the one that is technically correct from my perspective (which I would have naturally assumed because the question came from another person and was directed towards me).

    • PRH on October 22, 2016

      I find it really puzzling that bramcohen thinks that these phrases are a person’s attempt to reduce conflict, that is, to sound less offensive. The wording of all six phrases listed in the article makes it obvious to me that the speaker wants the listener to feel as bad as possible about whatever happened beforehand. This is how I usually interpret them:

      “Who do you think you are?” – “Who do you think you are, my equal? No, you are a lowly peasant, and I want you to remember that fact!”
      “What do you think you’re doing?” – “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to do that? Stop that right now, or face the consequences!”
      “Do/Say that again!” – “I dare you to do that again. Go ahead, try for your Darwin Award.”
      “Don’t get technical with me!” – this one is the hardest to interpret out of context. If it is immediately followed by an explanation why I was missing the point, then I will most likely interpret it correctly. Otherwise, yes, it does sound like a request to use more “fuzzy” language.
      “What’s wrong with you?” – “You are a complete freak and I wish you were locked up in a mental hospital for the rest of your life!”
      “I need this done yesterday!” – “You’ve missed your schedule and now I’m going to fire you! Your chances at redeeming yourself are up!”

      Oh right, I get it. They think that not spelling these things out will make it sound less offensive, despite the meaning being present there as clear as day. :P

    • mitchmaitree on December 30, 2016

      This is a great post. I’ve learned the hard way to translate these. There are others that still baffle me. Like when my wife asks me to do something, and then tells me she didn’t mean I had to do it now. (“You asked me now!”) Or “Look at my face!” (“OK, I looked at your face. Now what?”)

      The one that strikes fear in my heart, though, is “What’s wrong with you?” I heard that so often as a child. This was in the 1960s and 70s. Even my parents asked me that frequently. I had no answer, but I got the message: there was *something* wrong with me!

      Only recently have I learned I’m on the spectrum, and only because my son was diagnosed and we wanted to learn more about it. The more we learned, the more flabbergasted I became. I’ve been labeled depressive, bipolar, antisocial, and many other things over the course of my life. (The meds for depression and bipolar make it worse, so I figured either they were wrong or there was something wrong with me.) Finally I have the answer.

    • caThar4G on October 7, 2018

      I think some of these phrases and questions are just sometimes rude phrases or questions people will say when displeased, angry, or inpatient.

    • arosilus on May 7, 2020

      Nt rules

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