The next morning, you awaken, not feeling as fresh as you’d like to after the rude disruptions to your beauty sleep. Surprise surprise,mouth open, there he is snoring like a pig, with a credit card still poised ready. He;s having the cringe-worthy flashbacks of the ‘night before’ but you still try and get some sense out of him. Suddenly you receive the confirmation email to see that ‘within the next 3-5 working days’ you will be the proud owner of an ‘Abs King Pro’ workout machine, and a 12 pack of Sudoku toilet roll. Good for you.
You know it’s isn’t entirely your partner's fault, so he can take comfort in that (although you could have fun here). It’s the sleaze on TV with squeaky white teeth and slicked hair, talented in using fancy words and his expansive vocabulary to persuade you into buying things by enticing your senses (he could probably even sell ice to an eskimo).Sometimes these features of persuasive language can be so subtle that most of the time, you can’t even notice they’re there however this is a talent amplified by a pint or two at your man’s end. This stretches far from just Teleshopping, we’re continuously subjected to the tricks of the media, convincing us that we need good X, product Y and service Z.
Now ladies, you’re not someone who falls for every trick in the book, we know that the creator of the adverts want something from us (usually money). We try and avoid it but we aren’t immune and we often find ourselves being the one holding the persuasive power. An example you’ll be familiar with; you’re in the kitchen, doing ALL the housework and your partner is in the lounge having another few beers whilst watching the Chelsea match, you suggest ‘it’d be great if you could quickly run the rubbish out, please’. The modal auxiliary ‘could’ softens the hidden imperative as he knows you’ve never actually directly asked him. Yet in hiding the order you’ve managed to manipulate him and once again he’s outside in the freezing cold, shivering, putting the rubbish in the bins. Like the rest of society, you’ve simply learnt to use language to influence and control. Because you added ‘please’ it creates the impression he’s doing you a huge favour, he’s a hero and it actually allows him to save face.
Except, being a male, he doesn’t do it when asked. You know fighting will be ineffective so instead you remain tactful and strategic and use the rhetorical question ‘have you taken the rubbish out yet?’ Your use of the second person subtly acts as a pre-emptive for the fact that it is still his job and that you’ve never actually done it since you moved in together. Successfully, your language means you hold the power in this conversation. A famous linguist called Normal Fairclough states that there is ALWAYS a power imbalance in social interactions and situations; it’s just a case of whether the language they use gives them that supposed power (power in discourse), or whether the power is…