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Thread: Semantics: I know where you're coming from

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    Default Semantics: I know where you're coming from

    "I know where you're coming from". I hate that phrasing. It means, as you all know, that person A understands why person B would make his statement about something based on person B's properties or earlier experiences.

    However, its literal meaning is too obvious for me to appreciate it. If person B is person A's twin, then it is obvious that person A knows where person B comes from. They are twins! They have lived all of their lives together and have the same parents! The phrase becomes a tautology.

    This is something that has bothered me for a while. Does anyone agree that is an irritating phrase?
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    Where do you get the whole "twins" thing from?

    I do NOT know where you're coming from.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    However, its literal meaning is too obvious for me to appreciate it. If person B is person A's twin, then it is obvious that person A knows where person B comes from. They are twins! They have lived all of their lives together and have the same parents! The phrase becomes a tautology.
    As Treez said, I don't get the twins thing. I've said this phrase many times in my life, and my twin died before birth (seriously, lol). This idiom is perfectly fine in my books, and even if the literal meaning is strange, that's how idioms work. You could just say, "I understand" or "I relate to what you're saying", but "I know where you're coming from" just says the same thing in a more casual way.
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    I have no idea what Rage is talking about. I don't like hearing it much, though that's because I know when I say it, out means 'I get what you're saying, but here's why you're wrong.'
    I wrote a four word letter.

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    Sorry, I clearly did not formulate my post good enough.

    I find it irritating to hear "I know where you are coming from" when you literally know where someone is coming from. Like the guy comes from, say, San Diego. If the discussion is about ice cream flavours, being from San Diego has nothing to do with the guy's ice cream flavour preferences. It is not relevant to the discussion at all where the guy is coming from. Stating that you know where he is coming from makes no sense in this context.

    When I used the example of twins, I meant that no one knows more than twins where each other is coming from. It would make no sense to state that you know where your twin is coming from when discussing for instance ice cream flavours. It is obvious that you know that your twin comes from the same place as you. So obvious and redundant that you could just as well say "I know where I am coming from". "Good, because otherwise you have most likely alzheimers."

    Do you understand now?
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    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    Sorry, I clearly did not formulate my post good enough.

    I find it irritating to hear "I know where you are coming from" when you literally know where someone is coming from. Like the guy comes from, say, San Diego. If the discussion is about ice cream flavours, being from San Diego has nothing to do with the guy's ice cream flavour preferences. It is not relevant to the discussion at all where the guy is coming from. Stating that you know where he is coming from makes no sense in this context.
    Because it's present continuous, it is not what you're describing. You couldn't literally say, "He is coming from San Diego", but rather, "He comes from San Diego". It would be grammatically atrocious to say, "He is coming from San Diego," unless he is on his way *here* to visit me *from* San Diego... but that's an expression one hardly ever uses.

    Anyway, it sounds like you might have issues with idioms of all sorts, then. All idioms are super weird and illogical if you try to take them literally. I put my foot in my mouth instead of biting my tongue like I should've. Wait, why would I put my foot in my mouth? What does that have to do with saying something embarrassing? And biting my tongue sounds painful! Give me a hand, will you (and I don't mean you should detach your hand at the wrist and donate it to me for good), cause I've had it up to my ears (unless "it" is air, there's nothing anywhere near my ears right now) with these idioms!
    Quote Originally Posted by jsmak84 View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    I find it irritating to hear "I know where you are coming from" when you literally know where someone is coming from.
    But obviously nobody ever uses this phrase to mean that they literally know where you are coming from in a geographic sense. If you actually take things this literally you presumably can never have a single conversation without getting confused or annoyed. Communication is not about the literal meaning of the things we say, it's about conveying a point in the most effective way. The most effective way is rarely the most direct and literal way.

    With this phrase, as has already been mentioned, it's often a way of gently preparing to rebuff someone's statement. It's a way of showing that you understand why they may hold a certain opinion before making it clear that you don't share it. It's particularly good when someone has expressed prejudice towards perhaps an ethic group or something similar, and you know that this person has been mistreated in the past by people belonging to this group. This phrase basically acknowledges that you accept the person has cause to feel negatively but that the negativity is being directed unfairly. It's a good phrase.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Llamas View Post
    Because it's present continuous, it is not what you're describing. You couldn't literally say, "He is coming from San Diego", but rather, "He comes from San Diego". It would be grammatically atrocious to say, "He is coming from San Diego," unless he is on his way *here* to visit me *from* San Diego... but that's an expression one hardly ever uses.

    Anyway, it sounds like you might have issues with idioms of all sorts, then. All idioms are super weird and illogical if you try to take them literally. I put my foot in my mouth instead of biting my tongue like I should've. Wait, why would I put my foot in my mouth? What does that have to do with saying something embarrassing? And biting my tongue sounds painful! Give me a hand, will you (and I don't mean you should detach your hand at the wrist and donate it to me for good), cause I've had it up to my ears (unless "it" is air, there's nothing anywhere near my ears right now) with these idioms!
    The grammar thing. Yes you are right, but then "I know where you are coming from" makes even less sense. It should be "I know where you come from", but it isn't. People say "I know where you are coming from" as if the one they are talking with is approaching them as they speak.

    Anyway, I don't have problems with most idioms, sayings or phrases. Things like "I put my foot in my mouth" are so extreme, vivid or over-dramatic that it is hard to think about them as literal. They are often physically impossible. They also usually make metaphorically sense. Putting your foot in your mouth is quite embarrassing. Things like "give me a hand" is logical as you physically give your hand to a person if that person is down on the ground and you stretch out his hand to help him up. Or if you help someone to carry something heavy, you give them a hand by physically interact your hand with the object in need to be carried.

    I think the reason I have a problem with "I know where you are coming from" is that it can have both a literal and metaphorical meaning. And it is not unnatural or uncommon to use both of the meanings. The term is ambiguous. When you say "give me a hand" you never mean to have that hand detached from the person a go home with it. It most often only has one meaning. "I know where you are coming from" is seldom confusing, you would most likely know if the literal or metaphorical meaning is used, but I still find it very annoying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paint_It_Black View Post
    But obviously nobody ever uses this phrase to mean that they literally know where you are coming from in a geographic sense. If you actually take things this literally you presumably can never have a single conversation without getting confused or annoyed. Communication is not about the literal meaning of the things we say, it's about conveying a point in the most effective way. The most effective way is rarely the most direct and literal way.

    With this phrase, as has already been mentioned, it's often a way of gently preparing to rebuff someone's statement. It's a way of showing that you understand why they may hold a certain opinion before making it clear that you don't share it. It's particularly good when someone has expressed prejudice towards perhaps an ethic group or something similar, and you know that this person has been mistreated in the past by people belonging to this group. This phrase basically acknowledges that you accept the person has cause to feel negatively but that the negativity is being directed unfairly. It's a good phrase.
    I fully understand the meaning and I never confuse it for the opposite meaning, still I find it annoying for reasons listed above.
    Quote Originally Posted by Paint_It_Black View Post
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    I imagine that people who work repairing watches and clocks might say "give me a hand" in a literal sense... I think that's probably about as common as saying "I know where you're coming from" in a literal sense :P
    Quote Originally Posted by jsmak84 View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paint_It_Black View Post
    For the record I am in awe of non-native English speakers like yourself who generally understand the language much better than most natives. You probably understand the grammatical rules far better than I do.
    I agree that it's impressive when a non-native is able to analyze English at this level. I can't do that with any language besides my mother tongue.... doing that with a foreign language is impressive.

    Edit: But anytime you disagree with Brianna on a subject related to language just know you're probably wrong. It works for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by RageAndLov View Post
    Wouldn't they say "give me the hand"? You most likely tend to wear your watch on one wrist, so any hand won't do, but rather the hand. And "give me the hand" doesn't have a metaphorical meaning.
    Absolutely not. They might say, "Give me your hand", but "give me a hand" would be more likely than "the". When I go to a club, too, and they wanna stamp my hand, they say "give me a hand" sometimes (though again, "give me your hand" is a bit more common).

    But I was talking about the hands of a clock, anyway, haha. Give me a hand for this clock

    But I am sure you could find just as many examples of when you say "give me a hand" in a literal sense as with "I know where you're coming from". Still, I find that phrase annoying, but "give me a hand" does not annoy me at all. Perhaps I don't even know why. Am I biased? I don't know how anyone could be biased to such a thing.
    Yes, it's normal to have weird issues with various words and phrases. I hate the word "moist", and I don't know why, haha.

    But, you being an authority on English grammar, could you explain to me what the meaning or rather the reason for the phrase "I know where you're coming from" to mean "I understand your point of view" or "I can see why you think that"? As you said, "coming" would imply that an action of geographical movement is happening right now as we speak. How does "I know from which point you move to here is" translate to "I understand your point of view"? Wouldn't "I know where you come from" be a better phrase to carry such a meaning?
    Because you're coming at an issue from a certain metaphorical angle. So the background that leads you to your opinion is where you're coming from. I could say something like, "I think spanking children is bad, but then again this might come from my strict upbringing." My perspective and opinion come from somewhere. So I guess you could literally say, "I know where your opinion comes from", but that's just not how the idiom goes and it makes perfect sense to me how it is. Maybe it's just really hard to understand if you didn't grow up around it, and that's fair.


    Yes, the phrase still annoys me for whatever reason. And I doubt I know English grammar better than native speakers. If I do not act cautiously, I make a lot of elemental mistakes in regards of English grammar. Especially in places where my native language and English have different rules. Like the English relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which etc. My native language has only one word for all those relative pronouns, so if I do not think about the proper use I might screw it up.
    You Norwegians tend to have awesome English, and I rarely see you make a mistake that makes it clear you're not a native speaker. Your English is really good.

    Also, I acknowledge that if llamas, being the English teacher from the US, says I am wrong about English grammar, I most definitely am. Like the use of the term "USAmerican". Llamas has pointed out that it is wrong quite some times and I don't dare to disagree with her, but it is a demonym I wish were widely used.
    Haha, yeah this stuff used to bother me, but I think it was just how you presented it :P There are tons of words in every language that are silly/dumb to an outsider, and English is no exception... didn't you once debate the usage of record/vinyl or something? And then there's soccer/football... well, to be honest, as an English teacher in a non-English-speaking country, it gets pretty tiring being asked all the time WHY a word is used in English, WHY we don't say xxx instead of yyy... I'm just like, "Fuck if I know! I just speak it; I didn't come up with it!"

    PS: As a semi-feminist, I dislike that the word "man" is in the word "woman", but I write "woman" and "women" and not "womyn", as many feminists write it. I see this as being quite similar to American vs USAmerican. But I *do* hate it when Americans call the US "America". Call it the US, call it USA, call it the states... there are plenty of other options besides "America" :P
    Quote Originally Posted by jsmak84 View Post
    I do not drink alcohol and coffee

    I do not smoke and do not do drugs

    I just do bumpin in my trunk

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