I Don’t Know!


Although the phrase ‘I don’t know’ seems to be a straightforward and simple expression of human ignorance, at times its connotations, hidden meanings and subdued emotions can vary dangerously. At the simplest level it’s a frank and honest admission, and we good people mostly adhere to it while making such an expression. However, it differs with the persons one makes this admission to: if you’re forced to make it to your teacher or boss you’re a little ashamed of yourself, and you try always to make it the briefest, and the mildest expression as far as your vocal chords are concerned. To your parents or siblings or friends you tend to be a little angry as if they deliberately selected the areas in which you are deficient—to tease or taunt you. Sometimes, in general, you give a broad grin as if it were a joke at you being asked a certain question to which your answer ‘I don’t know’ cascades out in turbulent of waves of uncontrollable laughter: of course, such a reaction of yours need not always be factual. Reactions emanating from the other parties involved would be dependent on various factors, in all cases. The utmost efforts ‘to hide your ignorance’ are mostly rampant; also, a weak smile defends your ‘answer’ the best with robust pride.  

The dangerous levels of ‘I don’t know’ manifest themselves in at least two typical cases: 1. When your spouse is involved in this process you tend to become ferociously indignant that s/he may choose that types of questions—so often, repeatedly and with derisive pleasure; 2. In the second case it may amount to a brazen display of abominable arrogance even, when an expert or a scholar or a politician has to make this expression after being asked a question. The reasons, the second case, for such unwarranted arrogance could be these: that s/he really doesn’t know the answer and is dismally irritated at being forced to respond; or that s/he may think it’s ridiculous to be asked such a glaringly plain question and her/his expression ‘I don’t know’ could cross the permitted decibel level so as to convey ‘how dare you ask me that question, don’t you know who I am’, the factual position be anything, as always; or lastly that s/he’d rather make a shrieking arrogant mockery of  you for your supposed impudence or ignorance to put such a question, whatever be the factual position.

If you pester me for more details, I’d also respond, “I don’t know!” in perfect calm though.

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