Those Double-Talking Brits

This is too funny–From a guide intended to help foreigners understand the idiosyncrasies of British English, found by a journalist for The Economist in 2004 on an office wall in the European Court of Justice. Originally from Harper’s Magazine, December 2004. The first is my favorite.


What they say: I’m sure it’s my fault.
What is understood: It is his fault.
What they mean: It is your fault.

What they say: I’ll bear it in mind.
What is understood: He will probably do it.
What they mean: I will do nothing about it.

What they say: I was a bit disappointed that . . .
What is understood: It doesn’t really matter.
What they mean: I am most upset and cross.

What they say: By the way/Incidentally . . .
What is understood: This is not very important.
What they mean: The primary purpose of our discussion is …

What they say: I hear what you say.
What is understood: He accepts my point of view.
What they mean: I disagree and do not want to discuss it any further.

What they say: Correct me if I’m wrong.
What is understood: Tell me what you think.
What they mean: I know I’m right—please don’t contradict me.

What they say: With the greatest respect . . .
What is understood: He is listening to me.
What they mean: I think you are wrong, or a fool.

What they say: That is an original point of view.
What is understood: He likes my ideas.
What they mean: You must be crazy!

What they say: Very interesting.
What is understood: He is impressed.
What they mean: I don’t agree, or I don’t believe you.

What they say: You must come for dinner sometime.
What is understood: I will get an invitation soon.
What they mean: Not an invitation, just being polite.

What they say: Quite good.
What is understood: Quite good.
What they mean: A bit disappointing.

One Response to “Those Double-Talking Brits”

  1. November 10th, 2006 | 8:50 pm

    haha excellent. Welcome to england 😀 Some americans might think this post is an exaggeration but really, british etiquette forces is to do this!