In July 2019, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller was testifying before the U.S. Congress regarding his investigation into whether there had been interference from Russia in the 2016 election.
During a long remark from Rep. Louis Gohmert, Mueller talked over him to say, “I take your question.”
When Rep. Gohmert’s remarks concluded and Mueller was told he could answer, he simply
Many people were confused by this response because even native English speakers had not heard the phrase used in this way as a complete sentence.
What does Mueller’s “I take your question” mean?
When Mueller said, “I take your question,” he was acknowledging that a question had been asked of him but that he was not going to answer it. According to one law professor, this response seemed to indicate that Mueller was acknowledging that there was an answer to the question, but he did not know what it was. Online, “I take your question” then became a meme in which it is used as a playful or sarcastic response letting someone know that you have heard them but you are not going to reply to them or engage with them. Another way to look at it is that it is a way of saying that you do not think their question is worthy of a reply.
“I take your question”: In-depth analysis
When Mueller said, “I take your question,” it left a lot of people scratching their heads about what he was actually saying.
Looking at similar phrases does not help much.
For example, “I will take your questions” is something a speaker might say to let the audience know that it is time for the audience to ask questions that the speaker will answer.
“I take your question” might also be more commonly at the beginning of a sentence.
Here is an example of an exchange in which it might be heard:
In this example, “I take your question” means “I understand you to be saying.” The speaker asking the question might or might not be implying this.
Here’s another example:
In this example, “I take your question” means “I consider your question.”
We can see that neither one of these meanings fits in the exchange Robert Mueller had.
One thing to look at is the legal context. Sometimes, words or phrases have certain meanings in a legal setting that they do not have in other situations.
As an example, the word “sustained” usually means that something continues on without interruption.
However, in a courtroom, if a lawyer objects to something another lawyer does and the judge agrees with the objection, the judge will say, “Objection sustained.” In this legal context, “sustained” means that the judge agrees.
If the judge agreed with something outside of court, they would not say “sustained” because it is legal terminology.
While “I take your question” does not appear to be standard legal terminology in the same way, we can look at one other usage from Mueller and infer his meaning.
Mueller also attended a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee where Rep. Devin Nunes asked him a straightforward question about how many times a certain meeting took place.
In response to that, Mueller also said simply, “I take your question.”
In this situation, he did not appear to be showing that he was somewhat contemptuous toward the line or style of questioning. Instead, his reply simply seemed to indicate that while there was an answer to the question, he did not know what it was.
One other thing to keep in mind when looking at the context of a question like this is that when giving testimony, a savvy witness may want to avoid being drawn into saying more than is necessary.
This is particularly true in the first exchange with Rep. Gohmert. Some people would have called Rep. Gohmert’s remarks rambling, and it was difficult to discern a question amid those remarks.
Rather than engage with those remarks, the reply “I take your question” allowed Mueller to acknowledge that Rep. Gohmert had spoken without revealing more information than he was prepared to reveal.
“I take your question” as a meme
As commonly happens online, the phrase “I take your question” led to many jokes and memes.
People started saying they would use it in response to questions that they did not want to answer, such as their boss asking them when they would be finished with some important work.
Others said they would make it their new way of replying to people who got mad at them online.
Of course, you would not really use this with your boss, but you might use it as a mild, funny insult to someone to indicate that you heard what they said to you but you do not particularly respect them.
Should you use “I take your question”?
Things move fast online, and this happened in 2019. You will still occasionally see someone use “I take your question” in this way on social media now, but it is not as common as it was in the days after this happened.
This means that if you decide to use it, you should be aware that the person you are saying it to might have forgotten it or might be unaware of it.
If someone says it to you, look at whether it is the whole sentence or if it is only part of a sentence as in the examples above.
Most likely, they are using it as part of a sentence, and they are not intending for it to be a mild insult as Mueller may have used it!
If politics is your thing, I have another fun expression for you to learn about: “Playing 4d chess.” Give it a shot!
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.