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Verifying the Theories of Deborah Tannen's You Just Don’t Understand Essay

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Verifying the Theories of Deborah Tannen's You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation with an Episode of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher


The book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, written by Deborah Tannen, is an analytical book offering scientific insights on the conversational differences between women and men. The book is copyrighted 1990 and is still read and widely talked about all over the world. Tannen is a Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Tannen is a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley and has a doctorate’s degree in linguistics. She is a highly creditable author who has written many books on social differences between women and men. Some of her other books include: That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships and Talking From 9 to 5: Women and Men in the Workplace. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and are still read by thousands of people every year (Tannen 13).

Tannen’s Vocabulary Terms

One of Tannen’s major claims is that women use rapport-talk and men use report-talk. Women use their rapport-talk as “private speaking” (Tannen 77). It is a way to gain connections and negotiations with the people to which women talk. Women will establish similarities and matching experiences to make conversation. On the other hand, men normally talk using the report-talk. Tannen would consider this “public speaking.” Tannen defines report-talk as “the primary means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order.” Tannen proceeds to explain how men exhibit their knowledge and skills by telling stories, joking, or even impartin...


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...n’t Understand have been put to the test. The episode of Politically Incorrect was a perfect representation of Tannen’s ideas and theories. My evidence definitely agrees with Tannen. The episode of Politically Incorrect demonstrated Tannen’s claims. Tannen’s vocabulary terms of report-talk and rapport-talk were exemplified throughout the episode. I find it quite amazing how accurate Tannen’s main arguments were. An interesting fact is that Tannen wrote You Just Don’t Understand over twelve years ago. Women and men have not changed their conversation styles in that twelve-year time period.


Works Cited

Politically Incorrect. Perf. Bill Maher, Tom Green, Howard Lyman, Humberto Fontova, and Florence Henderson. KCAU-9, Sioux City. 18 March 2002.

Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: First Quill, 2001.


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