want to?

One more cartoon for the weekend, a Zits in which Jeremy doesn’t fathom his father’s intentions in asking him a question:

Dad’s asking a question about Jeremy’s wishes/desires — the referent of the ellipted subject of want is clear enough — and suggesting that Jeremy should go to a restaurant for lunch. But there are still several possibilities for the membership of the lunch-going group, which could include others besides Jeremy, in particular his Dad (who is, after all, right there in the context). (There’s a similar range of possibilities for other suggestion-forms, like “How about going to a restaurant for lunch?” and “Why not go to a restaurant for lunch?”)

The crucial question is: Why is Dad asking this question? In particular: Why has he called me out of the blue to ask this question?

Jeremy is self-centered enough to assume it’s all about him and so doesn’t appreciate that his father might be (indirectly) conveying a wish of his own. Actually, he’s a bit denser than that, since there’s a least a strong presumption in many contexts that suggestion-questions (suggestirogatives?) with unexpressed agent — like “Want to go to a restaurant for lunch?” — are suggestions for joint action.

One Response to “want to?”

  1. Chris Says:

    This is related, I think, to the old joke: Man asks bystander: “Do you have the time?” Bystander looks at his watch and says, “Yes.” and walks away.

    A variant of this was overheard in the toilets at Times Square subway station in New York (when they still had them). Man at urinal, asks neighbour: “Do you have the time?” Neighbour replies “Do you have the nerve?”

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