The VAPs are a set of common hostile-utterance patterns -- so common that many of them turn up in the speech of very small children. [As in "If you WEALLY loved me, wouldn't MAKE me eat bwoccoli!"] They have at least the following characteristics:
1. They contain at least one openly hostile proposition [called "the bait"] and at least one hostile proposition that is sheltered in a presupposition. Sometimes these two propositions are clearly separated; sometimes they are intermingled.
Example: "If you REALLY loved me, YOU wouldn't be MEAN all the time!"
Openly Hostile Proposition (Bait):
"You're mean all the time."
Sheltered Hostile Proposition:
"You don't really love me."
2. They contain extra emphatic stresses that signal hostility -- stresses not required by the grammar (other than coincidentally) for any other purpose -- on words and/or parts of words.
3. They have a "double" -- a non-hostile utterance containing exactly the same words but lacking the extra emphatic stresses and set to a different tune.
Note: Not an identifying feature of the VAPs themselves, but an identifying feature of the context in which they typically occur:
A great deal of the time, the Attacker isn't interested in the utterance that would be an appropriate response to the non-hostile counterpart utterance. For example:
a. "Why do you always eat so much junk food?"
This is a true question, in Leveling Mode; the person asking it really wants to know why you always eat so much junk food. It may be a rude and nosy question, and you're fully justified in refusing to answer it -- but it's not an attack.
b. "WHY do you ALWAYS eat SO MUCH JUNK food?!"
This is a VAP. The Attacker almost never has any interest in hearing your reasons for eating so much junk food. The point of the utterance is not to get an answer to the question, but to sucker the Target into a lengthy and emotional argument.
Nonfiction online: "How Verbal Self-Defense Works" at http://people.howstuffworks.com/vsd.htm ; "Why Are Old Women Older Than Old Men And How Can We Fix That?" at http://www.seniorwomen.com/articles/articlesElginOld.html ; Religious Language Newsletter archive at http://www.forlovingkindness.org . Fiction online: "We Have Always Spoken Panglish" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/Story-Panglish.html ; "What The EPA Don't Know Won't Hurt Them" at http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/epa.htm ; "Weather Bulletin" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/Weather.html ; "A Quorum Of Grandmothers" at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/QuorumOfGrandmothers.html ; The Communipaths at http://www.jackiepowers.com/SuzetteHadenElgin/TheCommunipaths.html . More stuff at http://www.sfwa.org/members/elgin/SiteMap.html ; LiveJournal blog index at http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=ozarque .