Why you should be asking dumb questions.

We’ve all heard teachers say that there are no dumb questions. Well first of all, I think that there are truly dumb questions. But some of the those dumb questions are the best dumb questions I’ve ever seen. Hardly a week ago, a friend of mine looked up at me and asked “When is it better to say ‘are you up for something’ versus ‘are you down for something?'” We spent twenty minutes breaking down the social queues behind asking people to do something. We looked at how likely they are to say yes, or what kind of activity, and all the factors that play into suggestion. It was an insane deconstruction of the little ins and outs of human interaction. I had learned so much just by thinking through how that would work. Take a little time to answer this for yourself and see how it goes. The best part of that conversation was that it came out of nowhere, but simple curiosity. A couple of day later asked some friends how they pronounce adult: add-alt or add-ult. After we took a little vote we looked through every word we could think of; Carribean, aunt, envelope, etc. Just like last time, a whole conversation was spawned by a simple question that most people wouldn’t think to ask. One particularly interesting peak of this conversation was when we talked about the word “herb.” Was the “h” silent or not? While we were fairly split on the decision, someone told us how “herb” has french origins and, as such the “h” should be silent. Its amazing how much knowledge hides behind these little questions. Bruce Lee once said, “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” This quote describes this entire situation. But it takes a wise man to analyze the details of the question. Anyone can answer at face value. Of course, its more common to say “are you down” unless it is something that people are more likely to say no to. But why? Is it because “are you down” is a more modern expression and is therefore taken more lightly? And if that’s the case, why are modern expressions taken more lightly than older ones? And how did these two expressions come about if they literally mean the opposite? It takes a smart man to correctly answer a dumb question. And that’s why you should ask stupid, ridiculous questions. If you look far enough into it, you’re bound to find something worth while.

-Brian

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