Deborah Tannen is a sociolinguist at Georgetown University who studies “genderlects” — the speech and conversational patterns that exist both between women and men, and also within same-sex communications. She wrote You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation in 1990, and it explores an interesting way to interpret several types of common (often, explicitly stereotypical) misunderstandings that take place between men and women. Her idea is that generally in conversation women are trying (perhaps unconsciously) to facilitate intimacy, building relationships through social connectedness, whereas men are attempting (also perhaps unconsciously) to negotiate a social hierarchy.
Charter Communications, our local co-axial monopoly and recent bankruptee, sent a technician out to our house today, to hook up our new net connection. As is almost always the case, the tech was friendly, helpful and generally knowledgeable, in stark contrast to just about anybody you can ever get on the phone if you call the company. The customer service people are like robots. Sometimes, like robots with buggy firmware. They are, quite literally, running a program written by someone at Charter, codified in a choose-your-own-adventure style script booklet or web application. They seem to have no intrinsic knowledge of the business they work for, or the systems they are meant to support. Honestly, I wish Charter (and other such companies) would just put these resources on the web directly, so I can page through them on my own without having to be on hold first. They probably won’t do this, at least not in full, because one of the most important jobs this script/program does is to retain as much of their customer’s money as possible, whether or not they’re really supposed to have it, and to direct people into more lucrative service contracts, aggressively if need be.