However, I recently had a conversation with a friend that made me realize that there are certain basic techniques that male spouses use to argue that they should not assist female spouses with a situation, and that it would save us all a lot of time if we could recognize these quickly.
And anyway, isn't this just the sort of thing that Deborah Tannen has based a whole career on? I have a PhD in Linguistics too. Maybe I should turn it to the sort of subject that people write best-selling books about, instead of the kind of thing I used to write about that only 25 or 30 people on the whole planet could possibly give a fig about.
In that spirit I present my guide to Male Task Avoidance Rhetorical Techniques.
Technique 1. Attempt to redefine the situation as Not A Problem.
-Example: A woman in my puppy class locks her dog and her keys in the car and is hysterical. I phone home for assistance.
-Man: "Why is she so upset? It's cold and cloudy out, the dog is OK in the car. Tell her it's fine."
Technique 2. Attempt to cast doubt on the validity of the need for the broken thing.
-Example: My friend turns on the hot water tap and no hot water comes out.
-Man: "What are you using hot water for, anyway?"
Note: This is said in a tone that implies that if the woman were using the hot water to, say, cure cancer, he might get off his butt and look into it.
Technique 3. Interpret request in a way that he is not competent and/or equipped with the sophisticated tools to help with.
-Example: "Please look up a locksmith in the phone book."
-Man: "We don't have a phone book."
Note: This from a man who spends something like 16 hours a day sitting in front of a computer, and despite the fact that he's been doing this since they used punch cards, is perfectly aware that now you can find phone numbers on one using this wild new invention called The Internet.
Technique 4: Suggest kludgey solution that can be implemented without his assistance.
-Example: Aforementioned lack of hot water situation.
-Man: "Put it in a cup and microwave it."
Note, as implied by the specific examples, that a man will generally try more than one of these approaches in succession.