[General] How to ask the correct question

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jay2108

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hi everyone I'm having a hard time thinking of the question for an answer , imagine a situation where I met a lady whose facial features feel bit strange to me not like Asian and not like westerns either so what question am I supposed to ask so that somebody else around would tell me: "she's a Hopi lady" ? I guess the question is not like " where is she from " or " who is she " ? Thanks
 

GoesStation

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It's impolite to ask a stranger's ethnic origin, at least in the United States and Canada. Once you know someone quite well, you might be able to say something like There's something I've been wondering ever since we met. Would you mind very much if I asked your ethnic background? Many people with features which seem exotic for the area they live in get questions like this quite often. They may or may not react positively.

The worst way to phrase the question is What are you?​ The questioner has in mind "what's your ethnicity?" but the question is very offensive.
 

emsr2d2

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Hi everyone. I'm having a hard time thinking of the question for an answer. Imagine a situation where I meet a lady whose facial features feel a bit strange to me ​- not [STRIKE]like[/STRIKE] Asian [STRIKE]and[/STRIKE] but not [STRIKE]like[/STRIKE] [STRIKE]westerns[/STRIKE] Western either. [STRIKE]so[/STRIKE] What question [STRIKE]am[/STRIKE] could I [STRIKE]supposed to[/STRIKE] ask so that somebody else [STRIKE]around[/STRIKE] would tell me (no colon here) "She's a Hopi lady"? I guess the question is not like "Where is she from?" or "Who is she?" Thanks.

Note my changes above. It's important to follow these rules of written English at all times:

- Start every sentence with a capital letter.
- End every sentence with a single, appropriate punctuation mark.
- Always capitalise the word "I".
- Do not put a space before a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
- Always put a space after a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.

As GoesStation said, such a question is a minefield - there is always a chance that you will offend someone. About the most polite way I can think of asking this is something like "That lady has a really exotic look. Do you now what her ancestry is?"
 

Tdol

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Raymott

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The offensiveness of such an intrinsically neutral question hasn't reached such heights yet in Australia. I suppose, being a nation of immigrants, we are all from somewhere. But, we tend only to ask if it's relevant to some point in the discussion.
 

jay2108

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Thanks for all of your replies and instructions on both expression and culture :)
 

Charlie Bernstein

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The offensiveness of such an intrinsically neutral question hasn't reached such heights yet in Australia. I suppose, being a nation of immigrants, we are all from somewhere. But, we tend only to ask if it's relevant to some point in the discussion.

Just to mention the obvious, the US is a nation of immigrants and Native Americans. You're right about relevance. It depends on the context. But it's often not a neutral question, so you can see why GS and Tdol tread with care.

What I thought was interesting about the post is that the Hopi Tribe was specified. Why Hopi?
 
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