Should I really guess?by Angie

8:11 am

Call me a linguistic nut, but I am confused by the phrase, “guess what…”. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve used it quite a bit myself; and perhaps the very fact that Americans in general understand the convention validates its use. However, it does tend to create a conundrum for the person being asked: should I really guess (and risk getting it right and stealing their thunder!), or just say, “I have no idea,”? Some people respond to this plight by jokingly guessing outrageous things, but – by personal experience – I have found this to be less effective, since it sometimes irritates the person who has wonderful news to tell.

I’d like to know what you think. Do you use the phrase? Why do we say it? What’s the craziest guess you’ve ever offered or received? Do we really intend for someone to guess at all?

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  1. Shari Baker
    11:49 AM on November 20th, 2007


    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen or even talked to you. It sounds like life is going well for you. I was excited to see that you had been on the mission website and left a link to your blog. I’ve enjoyed reading it thus far. First I have to point out that you used the phrase “less effective”. I have been laughed at on a continuous basis for using that. It is such a missionary phrase. It was great to hear you say it as well. As far as the “guess what…” I’ve wondered about that as well. I find that I do use the phrase. I think we say it because we want to tell a story and know that no one will listen unless we start out that way. I don’t really think that we expect people to guess (at least I don’t) but perhaps it’s just that funny English language. We say all sorts of funny things. For example. Instead of saying “uh huh” we may say “yes sir”. Just a thought.

    Shari (Pincock) Baker

  2. emily
    2:59 PM on November 20th, 2007

    i am completely guilty of using and abusing this phrase.

    however, from what i see, ‘guess what’ is our casual way of announcing that we have something important or exciting to say and finding out if the world wants to hear. how’s that? you might ask…

    well! i believe it’s because the response we’re really looking for is the excited ‘what?!’ because then it somehow signifies that we are sharing our news because someone ASKED us to and not just because we want to talk about ourselves. :)

    (of course, due to the long use (and over-use) of this phrase, there are those who have developed a keen enjoyment for the outrageous guessing banter that can follow – but i believe its original origin came from the explanation above)

    this is my humble opinion on the matter :) to find out whether or not it is correct, you will have to climb to the top of Mt. Tahvalaijatuloo and ask the little bald man there who told it to me ;)

    emi-jo signing out.

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