A hypothetical question?

The Zits from the 7th:

Jeremy is given to responding to what people say in perfectly literal terms, not taking account of their reasons for framing things the way they do. He’s deliberately no good at Gricean relevance — a tactic that, by his lights, allows him to do nothing at all in situations where people (in particular, his mother) are trying to get him to do something.

As here. Jeremy’s mother asks him a question about his ability, a standard form of indirect request, framed this way out of politeness, so as to avoid issuing a direct command. But Jeremy takes her to be literally asking about his ability, a question asked only in case it might turn out that she wants his help in clearing the table.

From an earlier posting, “The domestic relevance duels’ of 10/28/12:

In these domestic playlets, Jeremy’s mother says something (often in the form of a question) that is designed to get Jeremy to do something, but she goes about things indirectly (as we all do, very often), counting on Jeremy to understand the relevance of what she says — in particular, her reason for saying what she does; Jeremy, on his part, then avoids doing what his mother wants by contriving to understand her literally.

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