definition of why

an original definition by J. E. Brown

interrogative adverb.
  1. When used politely, means “Please help me to understand the reason.”
    When used rudely, means “Why would anyone in their right mind do what you’re doing?” {Source: “Definition of Why” by J. E. Brown.}
  2. When used in questions like “Why do you ____?” and “Why are you ____?”:
    A signal of disapproval, by way of calling attention to someone’s personal choices. Example: The question “Why are you wearing that?” is not an honest request for information, but a manipulative way of expressing disapproval, and of hinting “I consider your choice bizarre.”
    A tool for making others feel alienated or unwelcome, by pointing out what’s different about them. A tool for making people feel that they stand out. A tool for regulating the behavior of others, by embarrassing them.
    A speech habit favored by unskilled parents, abusive spouses, inexperienced roommates, and other persons with a juvenile shortage of tact.
    Sometimes used as an assertion of dominance by someone who is pretending to be in a position of authority.
  3. A word used in response to a no, as a challenge to someone’s boundaries.
  4. A method of covert behavioral control. Peer-pressure-flavored criticism, in the form of notifying you how unusual your tastes are. An apparent question whose real purpose is to remind you how everyone else does it, and to say “How dare you to be different from everyone else. Or from me.” {Read this comp1ete article at .}

Tone of Voice:

Expressions of disbelief may be intensified by use of a dramatized galloping rising and falling vocal pitch (voice going high, then back down low, repeatedly).

  • Why are you doing that?”
  • What on Earth attracted you to her?” — someone on ABC’s The Bachelor, 19 Nov 2003.

Other intensifiers include the names of firmaments or planes:

  • “Why on Earth would you do that?”
  • “What the Hell for?!?”

Synonyms: {You’re reading “Definition of Why” by J. E. Brown.}

  • for what purpose, for what reason; how come; what for.

Related Concepts: {Read this comp1ete article at .}

  • alienation; boundaries; busybody; covert control of others; covert correction; covert disapproval; disrespect; expressing doubt; fake curiosity; immaturity; impertinence; interrogation; judgmentalness; making “observations”; making people feel self-conscious; manipulation; mind your own business; nagging; nit-picking; nosiness; pecking order; peer pressure; play-by-play analysis of someone else’s life; being presumptuous; prying; putting people on the spot; questioning someone’s motives; taking someone to task; talking down to people; veiled disapproval.

Red Flags: Words and Phrases Often Used by Rude People:

Whenever “Why” and “you” appear in the same question, there is a risk of implying “You shouldn’t have done that” and a risk of giving offense, by calling someone’s judgment into question:

  • Why are you ____?
  • Why did you ____?
  • Why do you ____?
  • Why don’t you ____?
  • Why were you ____?
  • Is there a reason …?

Excerpts from my book (in progress)

Two Meanings.

Asking people to explain their personal choices is a way of informing people that you consider their actions, tastes, and preferences weird, different, and strange, and that’s rude.

It’s rude to ask why someone is doing something, unless you’re being hurt, harmed, delayed, cheated, or inconvenienced.

When we ask “why”, we are usually questioning someone’s good taste, someone’s judgment, someone’s ethics, or someone’s morals. Questioning someone’s actions is the next closest thing to laughing at them.

There are really two reasons for asking why. There are really two possible meanings:

  1. What’s the matter with you that makes you do that?
  2. How can I do that? I want to do it too.
It’s like the difference between “Don’t do that in front of me” and “Please show me how it’s done.”
It’s the difference between “Why can’t I do that too?” and “Why would anyone in their right mind do that?”

A lady or gentleman does not comment on the personal habits of others.

— J. E. Brown

How Peer Pressure Works.

Often, when people ask you for an explanation, they’re really debating and challenging your needs, standards, and boundaries.


  • “Why do you do it that way? I would do it this way.”
  • “Why do you believe in that religion? I believe in this one.”
  • “Why do you hold your fork like that?”
  • “Why do you make so much noise when you chew your food?”
  • “Why are you so quiet?”
  • “Why do you talk so much?”
  • “Why do you talk funny?”
  • “Why do you have a funny name?”
  • “Why don’t you make eye contact when I’m speaking?”
  • “Why are you so short?”
There is no real curiosity behind these questions. Just peer pressure.

— J. E. Brown


Statement Meaning

“Why do you do that?”

“Why would anyone in his right mind do that?”

“Why do you do that? What do you do for fun?”

“I took this opportunity to remind you that I don’t consider your hobbies and entertainment to be valid. Because I’m a mental child and I have no inhibitions.”

Socially inept people who ask:

“Why are you frowning?”

“I don’t like your face.”

“I’m insensitive toward people who have unusual wrinkles.”

“You weren’t really frowning, you were just not smiling. In kindergarten I started calling that ‘frowning’ and no one ever corrected me.”

“Sometimes the television has a bad connection and stops providing me with entertainment. In the same way I would rattle the TV, I thought I’d rattle you too.”

“I consider it my job to be the Smile Police.” {Read this comp1ete article at .}

“I make people self-conscious because I have no filter.”

“When I was little, one of my parents or teachers always corrected me if I didn’t smile all the time. Unfortunately she forgot to explain that it would be rude of me to correct my friends and superiors in the same way.”

— J. E. Brown


Many of these comebacks can and should be delivered with a scowl:

If someone asks you: Your correct response is:

“Why do you ____?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Why do you ask me to justify my harmless actions and choices?”

“Is there a reason why you’re climbing this mountain?”

“Is there a reason why you’re painting this thing white?”

“Personal tastes do not require justification.”

“Why do you eat that? Why do you eat so much?
Don’t you know that it’s bad for you?
Don’t you know that it’s bad for you?”

“Why do you keep asking me that?
Don’t you know that nagging is bad for your relationships?
Don’t you know that nagging is bad for your relationships?”

“Did you know that repeating a question over and over is a symptom of Alzheimer’s?”
→ Optionally you may follow up with “I hope you’ll see a doctor about your forgetfulness. I’m so concerned for you.” If you say this with a lukewarm smile, it’s like adding “By the way, we both know you were asking just to be difficult. That’s why my response is no more intended to be friendly and helpful than your question was.”

“Did you know that asking the same question repeatedly is how some people express their disapproval?
Did you know that asking the same question repeatedly is how some people express their disapproval?”

“Why did you do it that way? I would have done it like this.”

“Why did you put that there? I would have put it here.”

“Why do you do that in the morning? You should do it in the evening. That’s what I’d do.”

“Well, good for you!”

“Well, good for you!”

“Well, good for you! That shows that you are your own person, and that you don’t let other people’s nit-picky little opinions affect or intrude on your tastes and your individuality.”

“Why did you wait so long to come forward with this information?”

“Why are you bringing this up now?”

“Are you saying that you find my timing inconvenient? And that you wish I hadn’t brought it up at all?”

“Why did you take that job?”

“Why did you go to school there?”

“Did you know that when you ask a question that way, it sounds judgmental?”

“I don’t see why you ____.”

“Yes… Not seeing means having a blind spot. I hope your blind spot won’t continue to be a source of friction between us.”

“Yes, I know. Your blind spot is not a defense. It’s the problem.”

“I don’t understand why you ____.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. You know, there’s a term for people who understand me and approve: They’re called ‘Supportive Friends’.”

“Ignorance is a funny thing to be proud of.”

The roommate who asks:

“Why do you waste your time watching that trash?”

“Why don’t you go out more?”

“That’s ugly. Why do you own that?”

“Why did you put it there?”

“Excuse me? You ask that question as though I’m accountable to you.”

“I am not accountable to you for how I spend my time.”

“I am not accountable to you for the quality of my belongings.”

“I am not accountable to you for what I own and where I keep it. It’s not in your way; and your disapproval just makes you an opinionated person. Understood?”

“Why didn’t your parents teach you any manners?”

“I don’t understand. Why won’t you go out with me?”

No means no. It does not mean ‘Interrogate me until I cave.’ ”{You’re reading “Definition of Why” by J. E. Brown.}

When you fall out of love with someone, put him or her on the total defensive by asking questions that have no answers:
“You love me? Why?”

“Can you answer this question about your best friend? Or your mom? … Do you even want to be that analytical? No? Then don’t hold me to a higher double standard.”

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“I’m amazed that you feel I owe you that personal information. How nosy and arrogant.”

“Perhaps someday when I owe you an explanation, you’ll get one!”

“Dear TV Star — why are you so thin?”

“Dear Busybody — why is it your business?”

“Who told you it was polite to ask personal questions?”

“Why do you read those trash newspapers and celebrity tabloids?”

“Why are you on your phone all the time?”

“Exaggerating the length of time is childish.”

“But I wasn’t criticizing.”

“Yes, you were. You were pointing out that my actions are strange and unusual and not what most people would do. You were dropping hints that everything I do is weird or doesn’t meet your approval somehow.”

Any comment about a physical defect.

“How kind of you to call attention to that.” (scowl)

“That’s no way to talk to people. What are you, twelve years old?”

“Do I point out how strange your face is?”

Any judgmental or impertinent question.

“I’m not sure I understand the tone of your question.”

“You’re awfully free with your disapproval. Why is that? I think YOU have some explaining to do.”

“Bringing my differences to my attention is rude.”

“Are you going to question everything I do?”

“People want to fit in. So I don’t see how telling me I stand out is a compliment.”

“May it please the court, this is the way I do things.”

“[shrug] I don’t have to answer that.”

“The fact that you want to know doesn’t make it your business.”

→ Never assume that someone who asks these questions truly cares to hear your logical answer. Assume you are being challenged, and respond to the challenge.

— J. E. Brown

Random Thoughts.

Rude people have a habit of making improper demands. They accuse us without proof; they ask for more and give nothing in return. They criticize; they manipulate; they make personal remarks; and they act like we owe them explanations.

Some people have the mistaken belief that we owe them explanations for being different from them. (Different from them? How dare we!) It is no less appropriate, then, that we should ask them for explanations. We can start with “I’m not sure what you mean by that” and “Why do you ask?” and “What’s with the interrogation?” and “Who do you think you are? My Mom? Mind your place!”

Bandwagons: Over the years it’s been cool to ridicule all of these groups:

  • people who are good at math
  • people with car phones; and later,
  • people with cell phones
  • people who have a bottle of water with them at all times
  • men with long hair
… as if there were anything wrong or hurtful therein. It’s proof that some people are too judgmental for the rest of us to hang out with.

By never asking impertinent questions, you show that you know what “respect” means.

If you wish to have harmony in your relationships, always treat others better than the way their parents treated them. You are not raising your spouse and your friends and your roommates. If your response is “Well, someone has to,” then congratulations, you’re a control freak. {You’re reading “Definition of Why” by J. E. Brown.}

Pointing out someone’s flaws — or worse, your opinion of his flaws — is rude.

I asked one rental applicant when he’d need housing, and he wrote back “May 10. (Why isn’t that on the application?)” — as if it were his place to talk down to me, or his place to give me the third degree. Obviously I rejected him for his attitude.

— J. E. Brown

From the chapter on “How to Be an Insensitive Jerk”:

It’s easy to become disliked. To create more distance in your friendships and relationships, practice these annoying techniques:

  • Point out people’s differences: Point out everything they do that is strange or unfamiliar to you. Point out everything that is not part of your limited experience.
  • Make a habit of asking people to justify their harmless habits and procedures.
  • Call attention to someone’s personal mannerisms.
  • Ask people to justify any part of their lives which you feel they should be embarrassed about, anything which is not up to your standards:
    • “Why does your car make so much noise?”
    • “Why do you wear that?”
    • “Why is your hair that way?”
    • “Why does your house have a broken ____?”
    • “Why do you have that accent?”
  • Frequently remind your friends that you consider them different, unusual, and strange. You must keep their self-esteem in check, or else they will have the strength to go out and find new friends and to have a life that may not include you.
  • Ask questions in a way that makes it obvious that NO answer will be acceptable to you.
  • Subliminally inform people that they’re in violation of your definition of “normal”.
  • Ask people to justify their personal statistics and decisions, especially the ones that don’t affect you. Imply that they even need reasons. Better yet, ask for justifications, but make it sound like you’re just innocently curious:
    • “Why did you leave that job?”
    • “Why did you vote for him?”
    • “Why are you here?”
    • “I’m just calling to ask if there’s some reason why you don’t use our product.”
    • “Dear Santa Claus, — Why are you so fat?”
    If people would just live in a way that was acceptable to you, you wouldn’t have to pressure them with questions. {You’re reading “Definition of Why” by J. E. Brown.}
  • First abuse people. Upset them on purpose. Then demand explanations from them: demand to know why they’re having the normal, natural reactions to your abuse: “Why do you get upset at every little thing I say?”
  • When a friend says he’s working on some personal project or new product, your first reaction should be to criticize. “I don’t see what good that’s supposed to do. Why would anyone buy that?”

By being obnoxious, you can get rid of those burdensome friendships and relationships in a hurry. Why would anyone want one of those?

— J. E. Brown


70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belong[s] to Parents Masters and Superiours.

71st Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. …

— “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation”, tr. Francis Hawkins (ca. 1640) (at

1st edition 07 Jun 2017

Thought of the Week

more Thoughts of the Week


definition of why, what does why mean, define why. Misspellings: defination, deffinition, difinition, what is why mean

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