I think you've put your finger on it. My background was/is IBM mainframe -> mac-> windows -> unix (sorta). The first time some unix guy told me to look at the man page I did. And then I sat there wondering what all that -a, -Xfile crap was. I couldn't believe that was the extent of the documentation, and the format in which it was delivered
When I started learning Perl after almost 20 years of programming, I couldn't believe how stupid I had become because my brain hurt reading books like "Learning Perl" (sorry merlyn).
My observation is that once you have gotten over the hump, man pages, perldoc, faqs all make sense and seem to be done the right way. But until you get over the hump, it often seems incomprehensible.
While I think many of the initial responses like see perldoc -f blah are terse and off-putting, they are usually followed by several responses that spell out the answer. So the style of responses could sometimes be better, but in my case the help I get dwarfs any issues I might have with tone.