This line was said by Sheldon Cooper in the Big Bang Theory. I have looked up the meaning of the word "tier" in many dictionaries. I still don't get the gist of it in this context. The dialog is as follows.

Leonard: Please, I’m asking you as a friend.

Sheldon: Are you making this a tier-one friendship request?

If he told him "two-tier friendship request", how would the meaning be different?

  • 2
    This page (with pictures!) would be helpful! – Damkerng T. Sep 22 '15 at 23:53
  • That actually helped. So "tier-one friendship request" means a friendship request coming from tier-one friends? "tier-one " could be replaced with "highest-level"? – Ghaith Alrestom Sep 23 '15 at 0:01
  • 1
    Yes. And the second tier would be "tier-two". The reverse, "two-tier" implies that the system is made of exactly two tiers. – Catija Sep 23 '15 at 1:06
  • Here is a related phrase, from the world of Tech Support. However, it seems like the scales in tech support and friendship are reversed. – J.R. Sep 23 '15 at 1:18
  • I think Sheldon would never say "Are you making this a tier-two friendship request?" in this context. I think he was saying "Is this really important to you? And is it important to you enough that you think I should get through something burdensome because you're making a request as a closest friend?" (According to the subtitles, Leonard answered "Yes", to which Sheldon replied "Fine", which basically means, "If that's the case, then I think I just have to do it.") It seems to be funny at the surface level, but conveys another subtext at the same time. I haven't watched TBBT much, though. – Damkerng T. Sep 23 '15 at 2:45

While the link provided by Damkerng T is interesting I don't think it's particularly likely it has much to do with what Sheldon says. At the very least you don't need that type of information to parse it.

Tier one in general will either mean the highest or the lowest tier. We can infer from the context that Sheldon means it as the highest tier. I.e. as Damkerng T. explains in his second comment what Sheldon is really asking is "Is this really important to you?".

The real point of the sentence is more to reinforce the idea that Sheldon is a very socially inept person for comic effect. Normally people would never phrase the question that way. You wouldn't really even ask "Is this really important to you?", because that is obvious from the preceding conversation. You might say something like "This is really important to you, huh?" or "You'll owe me," where you are already acknowledging the situation and essentially just getting the other person to commit themselves and possibly expressing your slight hesitation.

For comedic effect Sheldon is being portrayed as having to consciously evaluate the level of the friendship and tie it to the request being made.

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