Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

Are you using submissive language?


Hey, everyone. In today’s lesson we’re looking at submissive language. “Submissive language” is when you speak in
a way that makes you really, really small and not important, and the person to whom
you’re speaking is all so special and so amazing, and much more important than you. An example of a character who uses submissive
language is Dobby the House-Elf. Dobby the House-Elf is in all the Harry Potter films. Here is one of Dobby’s quotes, and this is
from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “Dobby is a free house-elf and he can obey
anyone he likes, and Dobby will do whatever Harry Potter wants him to do!” So, what’s interesting about this quote in
terms of submissive language is: “Dobby is a free house-elf”, and the thing about the
house-elves in Harry Potter is they are like the slaves of some of the wizards; the bad
kind of wizards in Harry Potter have house-elves as slaves and they do everything for them. But Dobby is a house-elf who won his… Who considers himself to be free; but yet,
if we look at his language, he says: “He can obey anyone”. When you obey someone, it means
you do what they tell you. So, he’s free; but yet, he obeys anyone. So it’s a… It’s a contradiction. “And Dobby will do whatever
Harry Potter wants him to do”. So, although he’s a free house-elf now, I
guess Dobby hasn’t changed that much because he’s happy to do whatever Harry Potter wants
him to do, because Dobby is very grateful to Harry Potter and he respects him very much,
so we see it in the language that he uses. So, most of us, we aren’t going to use submissive
language in such an obvious way like Dobby the House-Elf, but there might be signs of
it in our speech, and that’s what we’re going to look at in this lesson. I’m going to give lots of examples where,
without realizing it, we might speak a little bit like Dobby the House-Elf. Okay, first, before we get there, I want to
talk about what this kind of language shows about us as a person. Some of it’s good, and in some situations
we might look at it as… We might see it as a negative thing in some situations. It might be good for us sometimes, but if
we use it too much and we make ourselves small in that situation, maybe it’s not helpful
for us. So, first of all, when we talk in this way,
sometimes it has the appearance of being very polite language. And that’s good in a way-isn’t it?-because
it seems that we have good manners, and we are… We are a charming person
because we’re being very polite. But then if we go too polite, sometimes it
doesn’t seem that genuine or authentic, perhaps. So, when we use this kind of language as well,
it shows that we’re considerate people; we’re people that think about the needs of others first. The people we like especially, we make them
very, very important and we care about what they think. So, this shows that we think of other people
and not just of ourselves. This kind of language also shows that we’re
conscientious people. It means that we… We have a… We care what other people think of us, and
we want other people to think that we’re kind of people, and good people, and helpful people. And then the next thing this kind of language
shows about us is low status. That’s another way of saying: “Oh, I’m… I’m not very important; you’re
more important than I am.” Or: “You’re more important than I will ever
be.” So it’s not very helpful to use that kind
of speech in many life situations, for example, in many jobs; but then on the other hand,
in some jobs if you have a big boss, your big boss is probably really happy if you make
yourself small and look up to them. So it really depends on… On the job that you do. And lastly, using this kind of speech shows
that you’re deferential. It means that in the way that you deal with
other people, you show a lot of respect towards them and you show a lot of reverence. And “reverence” is a word that we would usually
use in relation to God – to revere something that’s so… So… So grand above us. So, in that sense, if we’re differential to
other people by using submissive language, we’re making them god-like. So we can see that if we do a lot of this
language it can be quite an extreme effect in the way we deal with other people. We make them so big and ourselves so small,
and that’s what… That’s what Dobby the House-Elf does. So, here is some examples of ways that we probably don’t realize we’re using submissive language. We might look at these… These phrases and these sentences as if they’re
polite things to say, but then we’ve probably not stopped to ever think about it. Okay, so here’s the… In this example, it’s like: “I must ask you
for permission for everything. Even small things I must ask your permission
first; I can’t just do it.” So, let’s imagine you are in a new place or
you’re at somebody’s house, and you’ve never used the toilet there in their house or the
loo, you’ve never used it, so you would say to the person: “Do you mind if I use your
toilet?” or “Do you mind if I use your loo?” Now, someone who spoke in a more direct way
or a way where they didn’t use this kind of politeness about: “Is it…? Can I have permission?” they would just say:
“Where’s the toilet?” There’s no: “Is it okay”? “Where is it? I’m going there – just give me the information.” Another example: “Is it okay if I use the
toilet? Is it okay?” Well, why wouldn’t it be okay? Maybe if the toilet was all… All overflowing and there was a… There was a problem with the plumbing that
day, maybe then it wouldn’t be okay, but 99 times out of 100, it usually is okay if you
use the toilet somewhere. “Would it be okay if I used the toilet?” Same example. And: “Would it be okay with you if I were
to use the toilet?” When we make the sentence longer like that
by adding in more polite words, then we become more and more like Dobby the House-Elf, because
all of these are asking for permission, but when we put in polite… Extra polite words, like… Here we’re basically repeating… We’re repeating: “Would it be okay with you”
and then to say: “if I were to” – we’re repeating. We’re… We’re so nervous about saying what we want
to say that we add in more words and we take longer about it, so that’s another sign that
we are making ourselves… We’re being so polite that we’re making ourselves
small in language. Okay, so another thing that people do that’s
similar to Dobby the House-Elf is that sometimes we don’t trust our own judgment and our ability
to make decisions, so we ask other people what we should do. So, Dobby, he’s a free house-elf now, but
perhaps he’s not good at making decisions; he wants to know what other people would do
first. And then when they tell him, he’ll make the decision. But, really, he’s not making the decision
because he’s asking everybody else first, rather than asking himself. So, let’s give an example for these sentences. Imagine you live in England. It rains quite a lot in England, but the rain
can be unpredictable. You don’t know necessarily it’s going to rain
in the morning when you leave your house. You might look up at the clouds, and it’s
a little bit cloudy, but it might rain, it might not. So, because you’re not sure, you might ask
your mom or somebody you live with, your housemate or something, you might ask what they think
about the weather and the situation for rain, and that way you don’t make this big decision
by yourself of whether you bring an umbrella out with you that day or you don’t. So, really, you want to know: Is it going
to rain today? If the answer is yes, you’ll bring an umbrella
and you won’t get wet, but you say it like this: “Do you think I should take an umbrella
today?” which means: Do you think it will rain? “Do you think it’s better to take an umbrella
today or wear a rain jacket?” What… I’ve written “bowl” there, but we can change
it for “jacket”; that would make more sense. “What jacket do you think is better?” So, maybe I’ve got a jacket that’s really
warm that I want to wear for a really cold day or I’ve got my rain jacket, and I’m asking:
“What jacket do you think is better?” for them to decide to me… For me by thinking about the weather. And this example we can imagine it, like:
Let’s say you’re going… You’re going out with someone, you’re going
to go for a coffee that afternoon, or maybe it will be something a little bit more special
– maybe you’d be going out for dinner or something. And you say to the other person: “Should I
get ready now?” Or: “Should I…? Should I start getting ready now?” Because depending on what they say, that’s
when you’ll change your outfit and get your… Get your hair ready and your makeup. So, all of these examples, if they are for
small choices, like taking an umbrella out or what jacket to wear, these are signs that
we trust other people’s judgement more than our own. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it depends
on the person that we’re asking. If we just ask everybody, you know: “What
should I do? What do you think?” If we always ask every single person and we
don’t make decisions for ourselves, that shows that we are a bit like Dobby the House-Elf. But if there are some people whose advice
or knowledge we really respect, then I don’t think it’s wrong to ask them for things like
this. I’m just showing so that we’re aware how… How we can build sentences in a way, without
realizing it, and never really thinking about it. Coming next we’ve got some more examples. The next example is a situation where you
hate to impose. When you impose on someone, you’re disturbing
them so much. You’re coming to them with your problems,
and you… You feel bad about doing that, so you don’t
really want to impose on someone. And because of that, the language shows that
you’re sorry, in a way. And the language shows a higher level of politeness
than we would normally use because we’re imposing; we’re really sorry about it. So let’s say you have to go and talk to your
boss, and you can see your boss is on the phone in the room and he doesn’t like to be
disturbed, you might go and knock, open the door and say: “Sorry to bother you, but…” Or you might say: “Excuse me, Sir”
or “Madam” if it’s a woman. These two words are considered to be honorific language. When you call someone a “Sir” or a “Madam”,
it’s showing a lot of respect to them. When I was at school, we always called the
male teachers “Sir”, and we called the female teachers “Miss”; we didn’t use the word “Madam”. I’m not really sure if schools still use… Schools in England still use the word “Sir”,
because in a lot of ways we’ve lost so many of these traditions of showing a lot of respect to people. So, let me know in a comment if you know what
people use at school, whether they’re still saying “Sir”. So, if you say… In this example sentence: “Excuse me, Sir”,
the fact that we’re using “Sir” or “Madam” shows a lot more respect than if we just say:
“Excuse me.” Next, knock on the door: “Sorry to disturb
you” or “Sorry for intruding” when you disturb someone, you’ve ruined their… The situation they were in before. Perhaps it was all very calm before, and now
you’ve disturbed them with your big problem. And when you intrude on someone… We call a burglar an intruder, so for you
to intrude on someone is… Is not considered to be a positive thing,
much like how the burglar intrudes in your house. If you’re intruding on someone, it’s very
much disturbing them and not desirable at all. Next situation – this one is more… I think we can use this one in a different
situation. This one is perhaps you’ve heard… There was some people talking, they’re having
a conversation, and perhaps you want to interrupt their conversation to say something, you might
say: “Don’t mind me, but…” and then say whatever it is you were going to say. It’s not… It’s not such a huge thing as some of these
other examples. And this other example could be you just have
something very, very quick to say, and perhaps it’s been… You’ve been waiting for a moment to say, but
the people keep talking and it feels like there’s not a good moment, but if you don’t
speak now you’ll be standing there all day, so you say: “Sorry, just one moment”, and
you try and say what it is you want to say quite quickly. But in other situations, if we use that, if
we say: “Sorry, just one moment” it’s because we feel we can only take one moment
of that person’s time. If we take more than one moment, it’s too
much. You know? You don’t deserve it. And lastly, instead of just asking a question
when we want to know something, some people say: “May I ask you a question?” or “Can I
ask you a question?” first so they get that permission. “May” is generally considered even more polite
than saying “Can”. All right, so now I thought we’d go back to
Dobby the House-Elf and look at some of his best quotes. And we’re going to look at House-Elf speak
– that’s a way of saying how house-elves speak: What kind of language do they use? So, let’s start with this one: “Dobby is very
sorry, Dobby had to iron his hands”, and he gets so cross with himself; he hates himself
so much for making a mistake that to punish himself he’ll iron his hands; he’ll burn his
hands to show how very sorry he is. And what’s interesting about Dobby’s language,
here, is Dobby is speaking about himself using his… He refers to himself as “Dobby”, so it would
be like me talking about myself, and saying: “Jade does this”. When somebody… It’s really unusual language, actually, because
we call it speaking in the third-person, and in British English the only person who’s really
known for doing that is the Queen. So, it’s a bit… It’s a bit unusual to get a house-elf doing
it, but I suppose it just gives the… When he talks about himself that way, it gives
an unusual quality to his… To his speech and his character that most
other characters don’t do, so that’s why it sticks in our minds. Or maybe it could be, just thinking about
it now, that Dobby has no sense of self. In a way, he has no… because he’s so much
about other people, he has no personality that he… In a way, he doesn’t… he doesn’t have a
“me”; he’s just… He’s just the name. And he… He looks at himself from the outside. Maybe I’m going a bit deep, there, but it
just came to me. Next example: “Dobby is used to death threats,
Sir. Dobby gets them five times a day at home.” So, poor Dobby, he works as a kind of slave
to the wizard family, and they’re so horrible to him and they treat him so badly that they
give him death threats every day of his life. So, imagine how traumatizing that would be,
and how scary it would be, and how abused poor Dobby is; but yet, he says: “Oh, I’m
used to it.” Poor, little elf. And the next example is: “Dobby is always
having to punish himself for something, Sir. They lets Dobby get on with it.” So, he has to give himself his own punishment. It’s a kind of responsibility in a… In a way. And for a house-elf, maybe this is seen as
a… In a way, it shows how good he is at his job
because he’s able to punish himself, and he doesn’t need to be… He doesn’t need the wizards to tell him how
to punish himself; they just say: “Get on with it. I trust you to do that. Get on with it.” So, Dobby being a very good house-elf, he
knows how to punish himself. And the last example here is: “Socks are Dobby’s
favourite clothes, Sir.” And here are some socks. So, whereas humans tend to think about socks
as… In a way, when we find them on the floor,
we find them to be dirty even if they’re clean socks. Odd socks are never a desirable thing. We especially don’t like other people’s socks. For Dobby, they are outfits, so he takes perhaps
the lowliest and least luxurious piece of clothing that many humans have; and to Dobby,
they become favourite, special outfits. So, there we… There we know a little bit about Dobby’s language. And if we use a lot of effects like Dobby
does when he’s speaking, calling other people “Sir” and making ourselves small, this will
show other people that we are less important than them. So, what you can do now is do the quiz on
this lesson. And thank you so much for watching, and I’ll
see you again soon. Bye.

91 Replies to “Are you using submissive language?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *