Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is a single word used to describe the following question in the following scenario:

John comes in from the supermarket having not brought the jam and his brother says to him:

'Why didn't you get the jam?'

Now, I looked at the definition of a rhetorical question and it is one that doesn't need an answer / an answer is not required; but here, John's brother actually wants an answer even though the answer(s) are obvious - either John forgot, didn't have enough money, or they ran out of jam in the supermarket.

share|improve this question
3  
If you have at least three different possible answers, I'd hardly call the answer obvious. Hence the question. –  Sam Oct 22 '11 at 5:48
    
@Sam: thanks for that, but the point is that the possiblities are so obvious, and the question so trivial, that is suggests that the question is intended to mock or rebuke with no real intent at gathering any valuble information. Some other languages call this 'a question of rebuke' –  nicholas ainsworth Oct 22 '11 at 6:52
1  
I think "Why didn't you get the jam?" is an ordinary question demanding an explanation. Asking "Didn't you get the jam?" while knowing the answer (but still wanting confirmation/admission of failure) seems like it could be a different category of question, though. –  onomatomaniak Oct 22 '11 at 10:33
    
@nicholasainsworth, Let's say his brother looks at everything in the shopping bag, sees no jam, and then says, 'Didn't you buy jam?' That's an example of a question with an obvious answer, but in that case, the question really means, 'Why didn't you buy the jam?', to which, I think, an answer is required. –  Sam Oct 22 '11 at 14:02
    
FWIW, a rhetorical question is not "one that doesn't need an answer", rather it is a question asked for rhetorical effect. It is a figure of speech which has as its purpose to make you think, rather than to solicit an answer. When Dr. Phil asks "how's that working out for you?" He is not actually looking for an answer, so much as he is encouraging you to reflect on your life and choices. –  Fraser Orr Oct 22 '11 at 15:55

1 Answer 1

Sounds like a pointed question, per my Merriam-Webster Unabridged:

pointed, adjective, 2b. made quite unmistakable in meaning, reference, or application : clearly aimed or directed

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.