Join 3,366 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is 'who knows' a question?
October 6, 2008 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Is 'Who knows' a question?

If I answer someone else's question with the phrase 'who knows', do I put a question mark after it? I'm not asking a question. I'm answering one. It's basically a synonymous to 'I don't know' or 'Lord knows', neither of which would have a question mark.

So, which of these is correct?

Tom: What time is the meeting?

Joe: Who knows.

-or-

Tom: What time is the meeting?

Joe: Who knows?


The first one looks wrong. The second one sounds wrong in my head when I read it.



Bonus question: What category should this have been put in? Nothing fits. Nothing fits?
posted by gummo to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
 
Yes, it's a rhetorical question.
posted by Abiezer at 3:54 PM on October 6, 2008


Unless you're Abbot or Costello, it's definitely a question.
posted by papayaninja at 3:55 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's a rhetorical question; a question intended to communicate a point, rather than get an answer. Rhetorical questions do get question marks.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 3:55 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's a question. It gets a question mark.
posted by limeonaire at 4:04 PM on October 6, 2008


The second one probably sounds wrong in your head because the emphasis is going on the "who" as opposed to the raise in pitch at the end of the sentence that we usually associate with questions.
posted by erpava at 4:09 PM on October 6, 2008


In transcribing speech I would consider the question mark usual but optional. The first example could be a derisive "Who knows!"; another might be a musing "Who knows ...." Putting question marks in would change the appearance and possibly the interpretation.

But yes, it is grammatically a rhetorical question.
posted by dhartung at 4:11 PM on October 6, 2008


Who knows?

...sounds wrong in my head when I read it.


As in, "I'm Ron Burgundy?"
posted by gummo at 4:21 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


It also is a question with an understood subject. Much like how "March!" is a complete sentence because it is understood who the order is being given to, "Who knows?" is a question because the subject is understood to be whatever the person talking before you was talking about.
posted by theichibun at 4:51 PM on October 6, 2008


It also is a question with an understood subject.

No, the subject is "who."
posted by languagehat at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


To compare to your other example, "Lord knows" doesn't get a question mark because it's a statement. It's like "Bob knows," except it implies that only the all-knowing guy could know the answer. As others have said, "Who knows" gets a question mark because it's actually a question: who is the person with the answer?
posted by vytae at 8:57 PM on October 6, 2008


On the other hand, "nothing fits" is not a question.
posted by dosterm at 10:49 PM on October 6, 2008


Bonus answer: writing & language.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:42 AM on October 7, 2008


« Older Have you, or anyone you know p...   |  "I'd like to welcome you ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.