Posted by: thebylog | July 30, 2009

Co-opting the Answer

A pet peeve of mine is when, in a public setting, Person A addresses a question to Person B and a nearby Person C attempts to provide an answer, preempting Person B’s right to reply.

Say someone is presenting their statistical research in a seminar and a hand goes up.  A member of the audience doesn’t understand something and asks a question about it.  But the questioner’s buddy sitting next to him thinks he knows the answer.  So while the presenter stands up front looking on and maybe even trying to answer, the buddy quietly (so no one else can hear) imparts his wisdom to the inquirer.

See the problem?  It puts the questioner in a difficult spot.  He asked the question of the speaker, yet if he looks to him for the answer he will be rudely ignoring his buddy who is speaking directly to him.

Another place this comes up is in a choir rehearsal.  Perhaps you ask a question of the director and the person sitting beside you might immediately know the answer because the director answered it 10 minutes before but you weren’t paying attention.  Same thing, pretty much.

It is interesting how you do your pet peeves, because I was once sitting in a choir and a fellow tenor asked a question whose answer was just so obvious to me.  So of course I jumped in and tried to answer the question.



  1. I confess I’ve done that too, not in the situations you’ve described above, but rather in conversations I overhear but am not specifically a part of, I have many times jumped in if (think) I know the answer. Even though I don’t think I do it frequently, I should try to do that less frequently.

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