Can I ask a question?

Why is it that when you are in a situation that calls for audience participation, people raise their hands or step up to the mic intending to ask a question, yet when they are recognized they feel the need to preface their remarks by saying, “I’d like to/Can I ask a question?”

You’re kidding! We all thought you were going to entertain us with a bit of interpretive dance, or maybe sing a catchy tune. Who would have thought that the reason you raised your hand or stood to be recognized, was that you actually desired to ask a question? Especially when it was announced that this was the time that questions would be taken. Do you assume the speaker and the rest of the audience are so dense that we never would have guessed either from your words or tone that you were actually posing an interrogatory? (And we won’t even TOUCH the can vs. may issue!)

Why do people do this?

And am I the only one who secretly hopes that the speaker/moderator will respond, “No” or “You just did.”

They do it because they are finding themselves in an unfamiliar and perhaps nerve-racking position. They question their confidence and it is something they can say to get themselves started and it is a cue to make sure that they are doing things correctly and it is OK to start the question. The alternative of just stepping up to a mike and starting to talk is not something most people are comfortable at doing.

I have no idea why people do this and I agree, it’d be great if the moderator responded like that.

The ones that really gets me are the “I have a question. <Some long-winded statement about something tangential>” people that never actually ask a question. :rolleyes:

My wife, and now my daughter have taken to doing the same thing when at a restaurant, or somewhere where they should expect the service person to just answer their question without having to ask permission first.

“Can I ask you a question? What’s the fish special today?”


Yeah, ticks me off as well. * “Can I ask a question?”* Well, you didn’t really give me much of a choice there, didya sunshine?

I think it’s the same reason that so many people who call in to radio shows start their conversations with “How are you?” even though the host has responded to that very question 8 times in a row with “Fine, thanks…” - it’s a crutch of sorts. An annoying quirk, but not something that’s going away, I expect.

Oh, Man I can’t stand all the “How are you?” questions.

Have you ever had the following happen:

Clerk: How are you?
Me: Fine thanks. How are you?
Clerk: Good. You?

I swear people are conditioned to respond to “How are you?” in a certain way and don’t realize what they’re saying.

Or, this happens a lot too.

Clerk: Hi
Me: Hello
Clerk: Pretty good. You?

I think this is also why people will begin a conversation by saying “Excuse me, do you work here?” to an employee of a retail store who quite obviously does work there. They know that they work there, but they are really asking “If I attempt to ask you a question, will you be nice and receptive to me?”