Is there a phrase or word that indicates that the authority of the speaker changes the literal meaning of what was spoken? Something like:

Me: I finished cleaning the bathroom
Golf buddy: You might want to double check for soap scum in the shower
Me: Nah. It's fine, lets go

Me: I finished cleaning the bathroom
Wife: You might want to double check for soap scum in the shower
Me: Yes dear

  • 3
    Consider the source.
    – bib
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 17:54
  • 1
    Nagging wife using commands masked as suggestions, vs a buddy who is actually giving you a suggestion... I see nothing to do with "authority" here.
    – Othya
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 18:01
  • 3
    The literal meaning is not changed in your example. The implied meaning is. Commented May 12, 2016 at 23:58
  • There is not a word FOR it, but there is the word, BOSS. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 21:27

5 Answers 5


This is just an example of inference, which is an essential part of communication: we always try to think of what the speaker meant, rather than the literal meaning.

This is the case even in your buddy's case: If he says "You might want to...", if you answered the literal question, you would say "Yes, I might.", and then seem puzzled when he seemed puzzled. This is basically what the android called "Data" does on Star Trek, at least at the start of his character development.

So, we always try to infer the meaning of all statements, based on the context. There's nothing special about wives here: it's just that the context of your shared communication history is very rich, and possibly complicated, and so there may be more potential inferences to choose from.


The wife gets the last word/final word in decision making.

It means the final decision or a settling remark.

Another definition of the last word from collins dictionary.

It means the closing remark of a conversation or argument, esp a remark that supposedly settles an issue.


The distinction is one of pragmatics, which is defined by oxforddictionaries.com as

The branch of linguistics dealing with language in use and the contexts in which it is used, including such matters as deixis, taking turns in conversation, text organization, presupposition, and implicature.


Implication may work here. Depending on how we see it, we are either worried about the implication (implied meaning) of the statement in question, or about the implication (consequence) of not taking the statement in the intended sense.




1 The conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it is not explicitly stated.

‘The TV licensing adverts make the clear but unstated implication that anyone who does not have a licence is breaking the law.’

1.1 A likely consequence of something.

‘a victory that had important political implications’


I agree with the comment by @Othya and see nothing here to do with the relative "authority" of the wife versus the gold buddy, but rather her attitude towards her husband.

The wife is speaking in innuendo.

innuendo: an indirect intimation about a person or thing, especially of a disparaging or a derogatory nature (Ref.)

The buddy is speaking frankly.

frankly: in a frank manner; freely; candidly; openly; plainly (Ref.)

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