Monday, March 15, 2010

"Do you know who I am?"

Synonyms: "Have you ever worked for a powerful client before?"; "Let me tell you how things work in the big leagues . . . ."
Categories: Evasion, veiled threat.
Definition: "Do you know who I am?" is a phrase often uttered by a defensive underling of a tyrannical boss when trying to deflect away from his/her boss or ogranization the unwelcome scrutiny of an outsider. Implicit in the appeal to the power or prestige of his/her identity is a veiled threat to the interlocutor as well as the recognition that there may not be a legitimate objective reason to avoid the scrutiny. Which is precisely why this phrase is much more often uttered by relatively low-status individuals; truely high-status individuals will usually have a strong enough command of the domain of inquiry to derail scrutiny by 'helpfully' pointing out alternate avenues of inquiry that may be 'more productive' or 'more efficient'.
Etymology: Derived from "You can't talk to your parent that way!". Informs the interlocutor that he or she has violated a fundamental norm of the relationship and that, relative to the utterer, the interlocutor is a mere child with neither the position or understanding to question the utterer or evaluate any response.

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