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This morning, my brother sent me a short message:

Come get some strudel

I was going to reply

Thank you, but I don't feel like eating strudel right now

Before I could send the message, I was intercepted by a relative, who tried to teach me a lesson about politeness, saying that the above reply would be rude. The relative's suggestion is to lie and write something along the lines of "Thank you, but I just ate something".

I fail to understand why my suggested reply is rude, and on the other hand, find the suggestion dishonest and therefore inappropriate.

What is a polite way to turn down your brother's who lives next door dessert invitation?

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    Hi Edgar, welcome to IPS. Have you considered your brother's message as just an invitation to come by and visit him (and the strudel as an excuse)? FWIW, I'd rather like your original answer than your relative's but it's only an opinion...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 8:59
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    How did the relative in person get to know what you were going to write? Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 16:47
  • @OldPadawan Thank you for the clarification, I think you are right that more likely than not it was just an invitation to come by and visit. @ bernhard-döbler I was somehow interrupted between writing the message and hitting send and I mentioned it in a conversation. I think part of the problem is that my brother is insecure. He expects a lot of attention from me, and in turn I need to turn him down perhaps 3 times out of 4. He and the family then mistake my pragmatism for not caring.
    – Edgar
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 18:42
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    By the way, after posting this question, I said I'd drop by to take some strudel for later, which I believe was the best solution.
    – Edgar
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 20:06
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    Did you just eat something? If not, then saying "Thank you, but I just ate something" is a lie. Lying to your brother is very rude. He may not know it at the moment, but it is very rude. Don't lie about trivial matters.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 13:27

2 Answers 2

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I fail to understand why my suggested reply is rude, and on the other hand, find the suggestion dishonest and therefore inappropriate.

There is nothing rude about this response, so your understanding makes perfect sense.

What is a polite way to turn down your brother's who lives next door dessert invitation?

You do exactly what you were about to respond with: "Thank you, but I don't feel like eating strudel right now."

As a person on the autism spectrum, I've frequently been told that what I'm saying may be rude, but in my personal experience it has turned out to not be interpreted by the other person as such. There's someone else who's written about this exact scenario on their personal blog, in the post Six Rules Regarding Autistic Interaction:

3. It is always okay to say no to someone else rather than to create a fictitious excuse for why you can’t do something with a friend.

[...]

To an autistic person, it’s not what you say that hurts, it’s whether you mean it. The truth never hurts, but lies and deception do.

[...]

I once went out to see a movie with a person my age that was on the autism spectrum. She was totally shut down during the movie, and clearly didn’t want to be there. Although I understood what she was going through, my mother felt that, in order to be polite, I should call her up and ask to get together again. When I did, the girl told me that she had plans all week and thus could not see me. When it was later revealed that the real reason was because she did not like seeing that movie with me and she was also trying to be polite, I was furious. I felt as if she had betrayed me, and my feelings were hurt. This was not because she had rejected me, but because she had to lie about it. If she could be honest, then I would not have felt hurt.

(While their blog post specifically refers to autistic people, based on my personal experience, I've found that this "rule" - and some other rules - apply equally to non-autistic - neurotypical - people, especially the above quoted part of whether you mean something that hurts.)

Based on their experience and mine, I've often found that lying to a person as to why I couldn't do something causes hurt, especially if they later somehow find out the real reason, whereas being more direct is either simply accepted (80% of the time) or initially comes off as off-putting but they eventually understand within a few minutes (the other 20% of the time).

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Intro

Your reply isn't rude, but your reply doesn't match the tone of the message you recieved. Since this is your brother then it would typically be standard to reply back using conversation that aligns more with restricted code over elaborated code.

Restricted code

This is speech that is dependant on context, relying on the shared understanding between an in-group. This type of language reflects familarity and is typically considered "warm". This also allows for less verbose speech for easier and faster communication.

For example this was a past text message conversation between me and a roommate (male,platonic)(certain details removed to protect identities/privacy). This is an example of a question and answer using restricted code:

roommate: Can u go in the draw on my desk the long one pause and get the <restaurant> menu

me: Cant send images to <phone brand/model>

roommate: I just need the number to them

me: <phone number>

roommate: Preciate it

As can be seen in this conversation there are almost no formalities used except at the end of the request. Text is economical, providing exactly the information needed. It sounds like a conversation would sound.

Other parts represented in this type of speech are use of written asides/jokes:

long one pause

And use of Eye Dialect

Preciate it

Elaborated code

This is speech that is not dependant on context and can be understand by anyone regardless of whether they are in-group or out-group. The point of this speech is to ensure understanding, but is rarely used between family members.

For example, this is a text conversation using elaborated code between me and a job recruiter (details removed to protect identity/privacy).

recruiter: Hello Maximilian, this is <Recruitor's Name> with <Company1>. I received your application for the position of <job>. Are you still interested in this position? [...]

My apologies. I accepted a position at another company.

No worries. Thank you for responding.

As you can see this conversation has a liberal use of formalities and can be understand without almost any context needed. The conversation is obviously between two strangers and there is not a shared upon agreement for lexicon, dialect, tone, etc to be used. Since there is no context for this conversation it will be as general as possible to ensure the maximum amount of people may understand what is being said and as well as being as curteous as possible to minimize chance of offendending.

The Question Directed At You (Restricted Code)

The text you recieved uses similar level of restricted code in comparison with my first example:

Come get some strudel

The meaning of this is completely dependant on the shared context between you and your brother. It matches the level of restricted code typically seen in English between people of the same family, and may be a little more concise than spoken word because of the medium (text).

Your Reponse To This Question (Elaborated Code)

Your reply on the other hand utilizies more elaborated code than restricted code:

Thank you, but I don't feel like eating strudel right now

Not only does this create dissonance in tone of the conversation due to the mismatch of code used, it also may even convey a level of distance in how you view your relationship with your brother. Examples of why this is elaborated speech include: use of the character ,, verbose phrase usage "thank you" rather than "thanks".

I am going to elaborated though more specifically about a particularly dissonate detail in your reply:

I don't feel like eating strudel right now

This is an elaboration that is verbose since the context with what you want to do with said strudel is understood and does not need to be said, the example of this phrase in restricted language would be:

I don't feel like strudel right now

This would not effect tone much if not for how it also works to avoid use of mimicry in regards to verb usage, the question was

get some Strudel

The response elaborates needlessly and inserts verb that is different and more clear to the restricted code use of get some.

Reply That Matches Restricted Code

I do not know the exact relationship you have with your brother, however since he initiated with the first message using a liberal amount of restricted code and since he is a direct family member, I would assume you would want to reply back in restricted code and with the same type of tone.

There are many ways to say this and it will depend on your relationship and shared lexicon/ dialect between you and your brother, however the words thanks and good are generally what the main words should be in your reply (in most circumstances).

I think the reply that would best fit in this circumstance would be:

Nah im good

This is a phrase I use liberally and have never been called rude when I use it in informal situations that warrant restricted code.

Linked as well is the urban dictionary entry for "nah im good", which has 91 upvotes and 10 downvotes with the first definition being:

A casual way of saying "No thanks"

However, if that is not your style then here are a few more examples that may work:

  • Im good, Im good thanks, Im good thanks though
  • Thanks but im good
  • Im fine right now
  • Nah im good for right now
  • Not feeling strudel rn Nah im not feeling strudel rn
  • Nah im chillin

Further Reading

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