When you were a child, did your mother ever ask you to tidy up your room, wash the dishes, or take out the trash? Perhaps you heard, ‘Could you mow the lawn?’ or ‘Help me fold the laundry — please’. No doubt, you were a model child, always obliging and respectful, forever eager to lend a hand. Surely, you never back-talked or muttered a complaint. Well … maybe you did slip up once or twice, momentarily dropping your cherubic goodness and replying with a hint of sarcasm: ‘Whatever you say, Mother’, or ‘I’ll get right on it’, or, simply, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’. If such sarcasm produced a less-than-desirable response (a grounding, perhaps, or a withdrawal of certain privileges), then in true adolescent fashion, you probably disputed the punishment: ‘Why am I being grounded? What did I say?’ To which mom — queen of rhetoricians, master of admonishments — retorted, ‘It’s not what you said but how you said it’.
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