Sean German noted: >>The answer is, you have to take someone at their word. Hi Sean! Perhaps I'm missing a bit of your intent there but I may have to disagree with the above. 'Context', (intonation, phrasing, body language, facial expression, etc.) is at least as important a component of communication as the actual words themselves. A single phrase can have many meanings - dependant upon delivery, timing, location, speaker, situation, ... So if by "their word" you are taking into consideration all of those factors, then I agree with you.  >>My general point is courtesy should be acknowledged with courtesy. My specific point is that there are times and situations when 'courteous words' can be spoken not only with discourteous intent, but with actual aggression! Courteously, (?!) ;-) RonL.  'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'