No one who asks the question, “What’s your problem?” is expressing an invitation to join them in the quest for a solution. It is a statement costumed as a question. In linguistics, this sort of accusation-posing-as-a-question/concern is known by a linguistic term that I have not yet researched and may not get to today. “Accusation-posing-as-a-question,” or APAQ (™ pending) works for me, though.
It is aggressively passive-aggressive only almost approximately one-hundred percent of the time that it is uttered. The person speaking the non-rhetorical non-question is profoundly certain of one thing, is philosophically sure of this, however: That they are not now doing, nor have they just been doing, nor were they about to do, something that falls in the range between perplexing to annoying to criminal.
It is a non-question that I have no longer find necessary to ask, not because I am an agreeable sort who causes no problems, but because I usually wait for someone who is having a problem with me and my doings to speak up (sometimes for too long—I can be aggressively passive-aggressive, too, sad to say). Also, I learned from childhood to read people, and that comes in handy.
Once upon a time, I was the sort of person who, if you stepped on my foot, I apologized for getting between your heel and the ground. This sort of warped, passive personality does not produce pleasant social situations if it does not eventually find its voice, because all of those annoying things that human beings do—many humans do things like slam doors, breathe loudly, cut in front of each other in lines, do things “too quietly,” pretend to be interested when they are not at all interested—and these things get memorized by that warped personality and eventually add up to one big, annoyed, resentment-filled and -fueled individual. Thus, I used to be the person who was asked “What’s your problem?” a lot because my reactions to small annoyances would eventually come out and they were often (all the bloody time) not at all proportionate to the minuscule size of the annoyance.
It is a non-question that I get non-asked less and less frequently in the real now. But my eye-rolling self, the person who still sometimes gets told that he has “loud” facial expressions, he still believes that most of the habits of most human beings fall somewhere in the range between perplexing to annoying to criminal. He just writes about these things here before he loudly rolls his eyes.
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This (including the helpful cartoon illustration at the top) first appeared in March 2015.
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