What seems to be the problem?

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Lars:
Hi group,
What are the connotations of the question "What seems to be the problem?" ?
Certainly it is different from "What is the problem?"

Is there a suggestion that the person asked may well have misunderstood the whole issue?
Is it derogative?
Lars, Stockholm
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Arcadian Rises:
I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.
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Anonymous:
[nq:1]I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.[/nq]
It implies that there may be no problem, perhaps the perplexed is stalling or just plain dumb.
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Don Aitken:
[nq:2]I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.[/nq]
[nq:1]It implies that there may be no problem, perhaps the perplexed is stalling or just plain dumb.[/nq]
Nobody has yet commented on the use of "derogative", where I would expect "derogatory". Although dictionaries confirm that it exists, I don't think I have ever seen "derogative" before.

Don Aitken
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Michael West:
[nq:2]I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.[/nq]
[nq:1]It implies that there may be no problem, perhaps the perplexed is stalling or just plain dumb.[/nq]
It seems to me you'd need to be looking for
something offensive to read all that into "What
seems to be the problem?" And some people
do seem to go around looking for things to take
offense at which is itself a form of hubristic
arrogance.
I'd suggest that 99% of the time, it's a somewhat
automatic question, with no thought given to subtleties, meaning nothing more than "Tell me what you think I should know about this situation."

Michael West
Melbourne, Australia
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R J Valentine:
}>From: Lars (Email Removed)
}
}>
}>Hi group,
}>
}>What are the connotations of the question "What seems to be the }>problem?" ?
}>
}>Certainly it is different from "What is the problem?" }>
}>Is there a suggestion that the person asked may well have }>misunderstood the whole issue?
}>Is it derogative?
}
}
} I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite } than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.

I knew someone in the customer-service who actually did say "What's your problem?" to people who approached (who didn't approach again if they could help it).
But the "What seems to be the problem?" is just a half step back from "What is the problem?", where neither is meant to be particularly offensive.It's often used in medical circles, where you're not expected to know what the problem really is, just how it affects you. But even there, the answer depends on who's asking. When one of my descendants had an appendix about to pop at three in the morning, several people asked the question. Doctors don't like to be told their job, so you let them do some of the work, and I answered that my descendant had "a sharp pain two inches along the line from the right iliac crest to the umbilicus." But, at the emergency room a few minutes later, after the physicians had begun their work, there was the encounter with the person at the window.

They don't want to hear all that crap. I said, "Appendicitis," and that's what was typed into the computer. Later on the doctors caught up, but by then the antibiotics had been administered, so the actual popping was not the disaster it could have been.

R. J. Valentine
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R H Draney:
[nq:1]It's often used in medical circles, where you're not expected to know what the problem really is, just how it ... but by then the antibiotics had been administered, so the actual popping was not the disaster it could have been.[/nq]
Sounds like the doctor I used to go to...she got all huffy (=UK "shirty"?) one time when, as she extracted a foreign object from my ear canal, I happened to use the word "cerumen"..
If I'd pulled a stunt like the one you claimed, I could expect a severe scolding in lieu of treatment ("don't you point your McBurney at *me*!")...r
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Skitt:
[nq:1]But the "What seems to be the problem?" is just a half step back from "What is the problem?", where ... but by then the antibiotics had been administered, so the actual popping was not the disaster it could have been.[/nq]
I may have mentioned this before, but I had a heck of a time convincing a doctor to operate after my appendix had burst, and the pain had subsided.

I don't trust doctors.
In my work, "What seems to be the problem?" was my stock inquiry. It was appropriate, as there were others who were charged with troubleshooting and identifying problems in the system. I, as the responsible design engineer, was to be called only when all else had been explored with no results. Eventually, the calls were few and far between, but it took years to get to that point.

Skitt (in SF Bay Area) http://www.geocities.com/opus731/ I speak English well I learn it from a book!
Manuel (Fawlty Towers)
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John Varela:
[nq:1]I believe it's derogative, or at least condescending, but it sounds more polite than "what's your problem", which is more to the point.[/nq]
There's a world of difference between "What's the problem?" and "What's your problem?" The latter is aggressive, the sort of thing one might say to someone who has flamed you for no apparent reason.

John Varela
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