Interrogative Words Just Might Change Your Life

By Aaron W. Rockwell, Staff Writer

I’ve been struggling with the thought of how to improve everyday situations. For example, going to a restaurant and just enjoying the meal is just a basic activity. But going to a restaurant dressed in the style of clothing that matches the locale is slightly more interesting. Other restaurant concepts of greater uniqueness (ordered by least effort/craziness to full blown jalapeño):

  • Order something new
  • Look up the Wikipedia page about the dish you’re about to eat
  • Hold your fork/chopsticks a new way
  • Close your eyes during the fork to plate to mouth process
  • Mix two dishes together, e.g., two pizza slices as hamburger bun
  • Create a game with the food/condiments, e.g., flipping the little creamer cups
  • Write a poem about the meal after eating
  • Go with the intention of only eating one bite, then follow through
  • Eat with your hands

Doing things slightly differently often produces cool and fun results, but requires an escape from the zone of comfort. What I’m truly looking for, though, is how to constantly do new and unique things everywhere and in everything I do. It seems that human nature resists change, but really it resists expending extra effort on anything. This is where interrogative words come into play. Perhaps training the mind to constantly think about what questions it should be asking would increase the rate of improving our lives.

As kids we’ve been taught (in the U.S. at least) that the question starter heroes are: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and sometimes How. But this is not the frequency order that the words play out in, in our common language (using this frequency dictionary):

Word Frequency Order
what 56
which 57
when 68
who 72
how 87
where 159
why 384

From this, the real question order we should be teaching our niños is What, Which, When, Who, and How. I think which is great because it’s kind of a choice between a few things. We are always trying to figure out which of something to do/choose. Where seems inconsequential most of the time because the where is the easiest question to answer (unless you’re a T-bird deciding where to travel).

Whose Line Is It Anyway:

To see how questions play out in real life(ish), I watched a randomly selected compilation of old school Whose Line Is It Anyway questions game where the contestants can only ask questions:

Here are the results:

Sentence Starter Times Said Times Won Percentage Won
Do(n’t) 20 4 20%
What 14 4 29%
Have(n’t) 13 2 15%
Is(n’t) 9 2 22%
Can(‘t) 8 2 25%
Why 8 1 13%
Are 8 1 13%
Would 7 0%
Other Words 6 1 17%
How 3 2 67%
Did 2 2 100%
You 2 1 50%
Will 2 0%
Where 2 0%
Whose 2 0%
Was 1 1 100%
Why not 1 1 100%
Who 1 0%
Want 1 0%
When 0%
Which 0%

From this small sampling, 110 questions were asked in the 9:30 minute video (that comes to 5.18 sec/question). It appears that the hardest questions to answer were How, Did, Was, You, and Why Not. So maybe those are the five question starters we should teach our kids. “Why Not” had a 100% no response rate, plus this question is potentially the most dangerous question, spoken before daredevil jumps, eating that 5th hotdog, and getting married in Vegas.

The easiest questions (>2) to answer were: Would, Why, Are, Have, and Do. So next time you’re awkwardly sipping your punch in the corner trying to socialize, think of these question starters because they’re most likely to get a response.

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