Translated phrase-list jokes

« previous post | next post »

An amusing "Anglo-EU Translation Guide" has been circulating widely in recent weeks. This seems to come from the same source as an old Economist column ("I understand, up to a point", 9/2/2004; discussed here), which attributed the joke to "the Dutch, trying to do business with the British", and which also gave some examples from a list "written by British diplomats, as a guide to the language used by their French counterparts".

The recently-posted Anglo-EU Translation Guide shares 3 phrases with the 2004 Economist column (some expressive details aside), lacking 2 others and adding 12 more. So a combined Anglospeak phrase book would have 17 entries, as compiled below; no doubt there are many more candidates Out There.

What the British say What the British mean What others understand
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect… I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That's not bad That's good That's poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest… Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is… That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It really doesn't matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I'll bear it in mind I've forgotten it already They will probably do it
I'm sure it's my fault It's your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don't agree at all He's not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don't like your idea They have not yet decided
Correct me if I'm wrong I'm right, don't contradict me I may be wrong, please let me know
Up to a point Not in the slightest Partially

The Economist column gives only these three French phrases — does anyone have a longer list pinned to their wall?

French Phrase Literal Translation Idiomatic Translation
"je serai clair" "I will be clear" "I will be rude"
"Il faut la visibilité Européenne" "We need European visibility" "The EU must indulge in some pointless,
annoying and, with luck, damaging international grand-standing."
"Il faut trouver une solution pragmatique" "We must find a pragmatic solution" "Warning: I am about to propose a highly complex, theoretical, legalistic and unworkable way forward."

Or perhaps, for fairness, a list of translations (into English) of the English of Dutch diplomats?

These are examples of an old and widespread type of joke, which include phrasebooks for translating scientific and technical writing, for interpreting between the sexes or the generations, and so on.

Sturgeon's Law of course applies.



63 Comments

  1. Jerry Friedman said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 9:43 am

    I was surprised not to see these two. Maybe they're too obvious.

    I'm not prepared to do that.
    I will never do that.
    He'll do it in a day or two.

    I feel sorry for him, really.
    I'd like to kill him.
    He has some sympathy for him.

  2. Adam said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    Some of these I feel make sense, where they seem to make sense as a polite way of saying the opposite, like "I was a bit disappointed that". Others seem like they might make more sense heard aloud or otherwise in context like "very interesting" or "that is a very brave proposal". Others, I'm not sure I understand how they can mean something that seems completely opposed to what most understand, like "up to a point," "I almost agree" or "You must come for dinner". Since there's a phrasebook, I'm sure I'm not the only one that would be puzzled by the disparity in meanings. Can you explain why some of these phrases are the way they are given the apparent disparity?

  3. Picky said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 9:49 am

    Oh lord, Adam, you're not into linguistics, you're into anthropology. First step Kate Fox.

  4. Colin Reid said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    There seem to be a few different types of these:

    third column is simply wrong (eg translating 'I hear what you say' as 'I agree')

    a standard euphemism is being used (eg 'brave' to mean 'crazy')

    'British understatement': the speaker is understating his opinion in a general way in order to be 'polite' or avoid conflict.

    The first two are a question of language comprehension (the second requiring more advanced knowledge of English), but the last is more cultural, and is challenging even for native speakers. Within Britain, this kind of evasiveness is stereotypically attributed to southerners. It's also a big part of what gets labelled 'women-speak', but that seems to be a cross-language phenomenon.

  5. Paul Kay said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    @ Adam. “I almost agree [with P],” entails, and “[I agree with P] up to a point,” strongly suggests (technically implicates), that I don’t accept P 100%. Since I don’t accept P 100%, you shouldn't count on me in the future to support any particular implementation or consequence of P.

  6. michael farris said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    "Or perhaps, for fairness, a list of translations (into English) of the English of Dutch diplomats?"

    I think part of the joke is the implicit idea that while speaking English, Dutch diplomats are more likely to say what they mean and mean what they say and are not aware of all of the pragmatics of political English as used by Brits.

    While I doubt that's completely true I assume that whatever gaps exist between what they say and what they mean will be bigger in Dutch than in English.

  7. AlexB said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

    Way back in my student days, when talking about pragmatics, a professor gave the example that the sentence 'I'm afraid that will be rather difficult' could be perfectly rendered in German in just one word: ausgeschlossen (out of the question).

    The list exaggerates the differences of course for comic effect. The real difficulty for non-natives in interpreting such evasive/polite expressions is that they usually cover a wide range or meanings. In my brief experience of Egyptian Arabic, I found that 'mumkin' could mean anything from 'of course' to 'God knows', and you had to depend on extralinguistic clues to find out what was meant exactly.

  8. Jayarava said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

    Made me laugh. So true most of it, or close enough.

  9. Colin said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

    Reminds me of how long it took to discover that when my British and Australian relatives say "most fascinating," they mean "I'm bored with this subject."

  10. michael farris said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

    For a long time I got mad when people said "to nie moja wina" (it's not my fault) in Polish until I realized that the pragmatic meaning is more like "I didn't do it on purpose".

    Not quite the same thing, but anytime I hear someone say 'naprawdę' (really!) with an extra high pitch on the second syllable I assume the person is lying.

  11. Peter Taylor said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

    @Michael Farris, the Dutch people I know stereotype themselves as always saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

  12. Spell Me Jeff said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    Much of "What the British say" reminds me of American admin-speak, or at least higher-education admin-speak.

  13. Thomas Thurman said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

    "Up to a point" was famously used to mean "no" in Evelyn Waugh's 1938 novel Scoop.

    The inclusion of "With the greatest respect" confuses me, because I can't see what else it might mean. I wouldn't need to mention explicitly that I had respect for my interlocutor unless what followed would otherwise contradict that impression. If I begin a sentence in this way, I am necessarily about to tell you that I believe you have said something foolish.

  14. Marion Crane said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

    This post made me think of I always get my sin. I got a copy for my birthday once, made me laugh. I think some of the above items are also mentioned in this book.

  15. Marion Crane said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

    @ Thomas: That's what I thought. Like "No offense, but…" continuing with something offensive.

  16. Amy Stoller said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    I love these. I'd imagine you could do an almost identical list for expressions in parts the American south (Charleston springs to mind) vs. Yankee understanding.

  17. Rainer Brockerhoff said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    I'd like to see a fourth column, namely "what the British should say if they really want to be understood".

  18. Mark F. said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    I have a suspicion that first list is of English origin, just as Let Stalk Strine was for Australians and How to Speak Southern was written by a Southerner (i.e., SE US).

  19. Chris Brew said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

    The only one which strikes me as truly specific to Brits is "not bad". Most of the others would sound fine anywhere that English is spoken. The "courageous/brave proposal" business is much more likely to be used by people who have watched Humphrey Appelby and Jim Hacker deploy it in "Yes, Minister". Before that I think it may have been limited to the civil service.

  20. Hermann Burchard said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    The list in its three columns is fairly accurate. Not sure cautionary reference to Sturgeon's Law is necessary (had to look that up).

    @Spell me: Yes! Americans tend to be very careful in dealing with other hominids, we being a cunning and rapacious race.

    @Jerry: Read "I feel sorry for him" as saying "He's a complete incompetent." Don't kill the idiot, let him live.

    @Peter: That's probably the origin of the expression "Dutch Uncle," and my hometown of Hamburg is too close to the Netherlands for me to deny such a tendency in myself.

  21. vivamus said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    Adam – with regards to "you must come to dinner" – try glossing "must" as "really should."

    I have these kinds of conversations all the time, when I bump into a friendly acquaintance in a public place. Both of us will say things like, "We should hang out!" and "Let's get coffee some time!" because it would be rude to suggest that you don't want to see the person again. It's for when you don't really care about the other person, but only because you don't spend much time with them. When both people agree that they "must" have dinner, what they are really saying is, "Even though we do not eat dinner together, there are no problems between us which would make me disinclined to eat with you."

    I'd imagine these conversations are common among coworkers, to maintain professional distance without implying personal dislike.

  22. Arne said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

    That reminds me of my (American) manager who commented on my (British) co-worker: "Oh, and I thought that she actually meant it, when she said 'brilliant!'".

  23. maidhc said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

    That use of "quite" is very British. To an American, "quite good" usually means something like "better than I was expecting". And Americans use "courageous" rather than "brave" to mean "insane". Other than that it seems quite normal,

  24. Skullturf said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    Even though I'm about to turn 37 and thought I was reasonably well-read in both N.Am. English and UK English, I didn't know about this British use of "quite" until very recently.

    I always assumed that English-speakers everywhere, when they said "I quite like pineapple", meant "I very much like pineapple". I was surprised recently to learn that some Brits use that to mean "I somewhat like pineapple".

  25. bloix said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

    "'British understatement': the speaker is understating his opinion in a general way in order to be 'polite' or avoid conflict."

    In my experience this is not what is going on at all. In my experience, the speaker is communicating his position very clearly but in a way that makes it impossible to disagree without "being rude."

  26. Kylopod said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    Many of the examples on that list don't sound especially different from American English. For example, "With the greatest respect" sounds a lot like "With all due respect," which everyone knows is a euphemism for "I think you are an idiot." And some of those, like "Correct me if I'm wrong," are identical in Am. English.

  27. quim said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 1:59 am

    An additional phrase list, specific to the academic subculture (originally intended for mathematics, but most items are used far more generally).

  28. Mare Frisicum said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    Are we talking register or dialect here? I would use such phrases (except the dinner one) in an Australasian courtroom or committee room, but not to friends or neighbours.
    Even German (and Dutch?) employs register, which is a trap for journalists. The media had a news story Thursday: Germany 'respects' Strauss-Kahn resignation. "Wir respektieren…" from a government spokesman means, "Nothing to do with us, it's not our doing, we never asked him to." http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110519/bs_afp/imfuscrimegermany_20110519111749

  29. James said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 5:31 am

    Thanks! Now I understand why despite having been told innumerable times that come to dinner at my English colleague's house, I haven't actually gotten an invitation yet.

  30. Pflaumbaum said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 5:42 am

    Interesting hearing people say this list sounds more universal than 'British' would imply. When I read it I thought 'British' was too broad – to me it sounds like an expensively educated southern Englishman/woman of a certain age. That is, exactly what you'd expect in the diplomatic corps.

  31. Jamie said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 7:50 am

    The "dinner" one reminded me…
    When I lived in Japan, I was on the way home with a Japanese friend who lived nearby. I asked if he would like to come in for a coffee. He hesitated and then asked, "do you mean 'do I want to come in for a coffee' or 'goodnight'?"

  32. MarcL said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 7:58 am

    One of my favorites has always been, "I'm not trying to criticize you, but." As far as the "Let's have dinner," in America, it translates as "We really should get together sometime," or "Why don't we get together for a drink? Give me a call." I think in this latter case this falls under Bronoslaw Malinowski's phatic communion.

  33. M said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 8:13 am

    This reminds me of a professor of mathematics, a German speaker from Switzerland at an English-speaking university. He said many things that became catchphrases among his students but the most memorable was that he would answer questions saying, "In some sense, yes," which meant, "no, what you say is nonsense".

  34. The Best of the Web » The Vibe said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    [...] finally: from Language Log, an Anglo-EU translation guide makes for a witty exposition of British subtlety and its frequent misinterpretation [...]

  35. Matt said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

    When I lived in Japan, I was on the way home with a Japanese friend who lived nearby. I asked if he would like to come in for a coffee. He hesitated and then asked, "do you mean 'do I want to come in for a coffee' or 'goodnight'?"

    And of course "come up for a coffee" can have multiple meanings in English too, depending on your socioeconomic milieu dating pool. I want to say "wheels within wheels," but "escaped characters within escaped characters" is probably the better metaphor.

    On the topic of the original post, the sad thing is that many of the same people chortling over these lists would nevertheless nod their heads sagely if told that the people of [insert Asian country here] are inscrutable and baffling because they often mean something other than the literal interpretation of what they say.

  36. Boudewijn Waijers said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 6:59 am

    > Or perhaps, for fairness, a list of translations (into English) of the English of Dutch diplomats?

    I guess the English of Dutch *diplomats* would be relatively comparable to the English of British diplomats. The excellent training they receive before being appointed to a diplomatic post would ensure that.

    For most other Dutch, I guess this alternative listof translations is very easily composed. Just switch the second and third column (leaving the headers where they are), and Bob's your uncle.

  37. Monica Sandor said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 8:56 am

    As to "quite good": when I was in graduate school in Canada and had a British thesis supervisor, I was told (not by him…) that when a Brit said a paper was "quite good" that was high praise indeed, whereas from a Canadian or an American it was faint praise ("not too bad, pretty good"). The list here suggests the opposite.

    Is it possible that both may apply (even more confusingly) – to be polite about a rather shoddy piece of work one might say "quite good" but in order not to let on that one is too impressed, a Brit might use "quite good" as an understatement?

  38. gbernsdorff said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    @Peter Taylor & Boudewijn Waijers

    This type of understatements and euphemisms are not unknown in Holland either. The 500-odd ‘old’ families have always been taught the use of such speech patterns as part of polite conversation and quite a large section of the ‘bonne bourgeoisie’ are following their lead. The notion that one should always literally say what one means and mean what one says is very much class-bound. Such convictions, although not prevalent in all classes of society, have become iconic of the Dutch people as a result of the rise of egalitarianism.
    There must be very few societies which lack that kind of speech phenomena among their educated classes. They are essential when dealing or socializing with Austrians, Afrikaners, Indonesians, Portuguese, Flemish, Japanese and French people, to name but those with whom I have a longstanding experience.

  39. gbernsdorff said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    @Peter Taylor & Boudewijn Waijers

    This type of understatements and euphemisms are not unknown in Holland either. The 500-odd ‘old’ families have always been taught the use of such speech patterns as part of polite conversation and quite a large section of the ‘bonne bourgeoisie’ are following their lead. The notion that one should always literally say what one means and mean what one says is very much class-bound. Such convictions, although not prevalent in all classes of society, have become iconic of the Dutch people as a result of the rise of egalitarianism.

    There must be very few societies which lack that kind of speech phenomena among their educated classes. They are essential when dealing or socializing with Austrians, Afrikaners, Indonesians, Portuguese, Flemish, Japanese and French people, to name but those with whom I have a longstanding experience.

  40. Warner Losh said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    When I was in Japan, there seemed to be four levels of politeness with the foreigner: "You use chopsticks quite well" which really means something like "nice weather we've been having." The next level is "You speak Japanese really well." said in English. Which of course really has an implied "for a foreigner, but I can't really understand much of what you say." The next level is the same said in Japanese. This means that you actually can speak Japanese well enough, but you are missing the subtle queues that Japanese take for granted. The final stage isn't really that polite: "You speak Japanese too well and it is freaking me out." which means that no foreigner should know/understand Japanese culture this well and I don't know how to cope with you. Of course, of all of these, the final one is the most direct and accurate…

    "We simply must do lunch, Darling!"

  41. Martin Slabbekoorn said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 10:55 am

    As a Dutchman, I can recommend "We always get our sin" (two booklets nowadays), which gives you both the "english" of Dutch diplomats and other speakers, and their intended meaning, as well as, in booklet 2, the correct English (mostly British English) way of expressing the idea intended. Both booklets are hilarious but also very instructive.

  42. mollymooly said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    The Economist published a response from G.M. Hurley on 23 September 2004:

    “I hear what you say” certainly can mean “I disagree and I do not want to discuss it any further.” Just as often it can mean “I think you're right (on the facts or principles) but I'm going to overrule you for political reasons, so there's no point in discussing it further.”

    “I'll bear it in mind” undoubtedly has the primary meaning “I'll do nothing about it” but fairly often also means “I hadn't realised you felt that strongly about it, and, while I'll do nothing about it for now, I already realise I may well have to backtrack in 12 months.”

  43. eye5600 said,

    May 23, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    Two from America:

    "The club is going in a different direction" means " the coach is fired".

    "You're being a bit judgmental" means "how dare you criticize me?"

  44. Julie said,

    May 24, 2011 @ 10:50 am

    I have spent long stretches of time in both France and the United States, (amongst others) away from my native UK. I do believe I have perfected the art seeming overly blunt and forthright to at least half the people I talk to whilst simultaneously coming across as a dithering annoyance to the rest.

    I am available for coaching sessions …….well, not really.

  45. Vocabulinks - NYTimes.com said,

    May 24, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    [...] Language Log Noting that an "Anglo-EU Translation Guide" that has been doing the rounds recently has few phrases in common with a 2004 column in The Economist, Mark Liberman offered readers a "combined Anglospeak phrase book. Examples include: [...]

  46. Sandy Nicholson said,

    May 26, 2011 @ 4:15 am

    Back in the ’80s (long before I’d studied any linguistics), I was in an Indian restaurant in Oxford and heard an American diner on finishing his meal say to the waiter that ‘the food was quite good’. I couldn’t believe the rudeness of this obnoxious American (as I then thought he was – of course, he just happened to lack the main sense of ‘quite’ that I have as a BrE speaker). I mentally pigeonholed this visitor with another American tourist I overheard around the same time, who, standing at the top of one of the city’s dreaming spires, declared to her friend: ‘So this is Europe!’

  47. Mo said,

    May 26, 2011 @ 6:53 am

    Hungarian English to British English
    (In triplet format as in the table)

    ——-
    Say: I will not buy this record, it is scratched
    Mean: I would like to buy some cigarettes
    Understood as: Attempt to replace scratched record at tobacconist's
    ——-
    Say: My nipples explode with delight!
    Mean: What is the meaning of this?!
    Understood as: Brazen declaration of emotions best kept private.
    ——-

    Apparently there are others out on the intertubes

  48. Caelobelum said,

    May 26, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    To me a as Finn, "say what you mean, and nothing else" or similar rule seems to be our national asset, and that list might as well apply to the Finns as well as the Dutch. The nuances of language escapes most politicians, certainly. They're straightforward and bad liars. But that's actually true. Most Finns insist on speaking English, and are mortified at foreigners attempts at Finnish. We attempt to switch to a language the other person knows better as soon as possible. Finns speak in short sentences. Facts. We like to talk about our culture. Did you know Finland is bilingual? My home city of Turku has 5,2% Swedish speakers.

  49. @boris_tweets said,

    May 26, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    I don't think any of this is particularly (∂) true, (ß) British, or (γ) funny… Just MHO.

    Besides, whoever thinks "Il faut la visibilité Européenne" is proper French is seriously deluded! :)

  50. Michael Proulx said,

    May 27, 2011 @ 3:17 am

    One that always throws me off is telling time by halves. In Germany 'halb elf' means 10:30am, in the UK 'half eleven' means 11:30am! The former makes more sense than the latter to me, however the latter is shorthand, I suppose, for 'half past eleven'.

  51. Dionisio said,

    May 29, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

    As Portuguese and interpreter, I do believe this table does not run from the true; Although, Brit name it "politeness". The worst is when they expect others to do the same! That is complicated!!! Of course in Portuguese we have the same kind of “cynism” in word, sentences and intentions; I would even dare to say more sophisticated. But Portuguese (in general), definitely, prefer not to use it! Portuguese language allows playing with words in a beautiful way and that can be used for the same "polite" purpose. But we mean polite in a different way and that would include not be hypocrite or cynical, not only in intentions but in wording – mostly because people can tell!
    For as amazing as it may seem, although Portuguese can be very noisy, we are polite, sensitive and very sincere! And we can be all at the same time!

  52. John Chew said,

    May 30, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    When I lived in France, it didn't take me too long to learn the meaning of the idiom "Ça ne se fait pas" (literally, "that is not done"): "That is not an explicitly forbidden and therefore universally indulged in activity, but rather a form of behaviour which is so obviously inappropriate that only a foreigner would even think of engaging in it."

  53. Eric S said,

    May 31, 2011 @ 6:29 am

    A classic French one :

    "Je ferai de mon mieux", translated "I'll do my best", really means "I'll do what I can, don't count on me"

  54. Terminologia etc. » » L’inglese, una “lingua educata” said,

    June 1, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    [...] stato dato risalto recentemente, molto commentato con ulteriori esempi, anche in altre lingue, in Translated phrase-list jokes (Language Log) e This may interest you* [...]

  55. Sandbox This Week: The StartUp Genome Report and Welcoming a new addition to the Sandbox Team | Sandbox said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    [...] Inspiration of the week A great step towards a world free of lingual misunderstandings – here is some "laugh out loud" material for the [...]

  56. Richard said,

    June 13, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

    Italian: Questo dovrebbe essere fatto dopodomani.

    Literal Translation: This should be done by the day after tomorrow.

    Meaning: There is no chance in hell that this will ever be done. You were a fool to ask about it and I think we should move on to a new subject.

  57. Bookmarks for May 24th through June 18th | blueslugs.com said,

    June 18, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    [...] Language Log » Translated phrase-list jokes – "The recently-posted Anglo-EU Translation Guide shares 3 phrases with the 2004 Economist column (some expressive details aside), lacking 2 others and adding 12 more. So a combined Anglospeak phrase book would have 17 entries, as compiled below…" [...]

  58. Julie said,

    September 8, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

    In California/U.S.:
    Said: "Howzit?" Understood: "How are you? Meant: "I acknowledge your presence."

    Said: "We should hang out." Understood: "We should spend time together." Meant: "I don't want to see you again."

    Said: "Ch'yah!" Understood: "Yes!" Meant: "Yeah, right."

    Said (at the beginning of a sentence): "Oh yeah no …" Understood: "…" Meant: "I agree."

  59. George said,

    October 1, 2011 @ 5:42 am

    Similar to Julie's comment, as an American in the UK this one threw me the first couple of times…

    What the British say: "Are you alright?"
    What the British mean: "How are you?/I acknowledge your presence"
    What a North American understands: "You don't look well, do you want me to call for an ambulance?"

  60. Matt Hodgkinson said,

    December 12, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    Miles Kington wrote a column in The Independent along these lines in 1996, titled "I hear what you're saying, but I'll ignore it": http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/i-hear-what-youre-saying-but-ill-ignore-it-1357551.html

    Harper's Magazine reproduced the one The Economist found in 2004: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/12/0080313

  61. Daphna said,

    December 23, 2012 @ 5:13 am

    "I am not saying you are a racist – you are a bloody Nazi

    "I am not saying you are not telling the truth" – you are a filthy liar.

    "let׳'s leave it at that" – I believe you re lying but I can't prove it

  62. Zeigen » Nice-ism said,

    April 1, 2013 @ 12:02 am

    [...] British character is to generally speak no ill of anything; see this Language Log entry for further examples, where it explicitly defines "quite good" as "a bit [...]

  63. James Wimberley said,

    August 10, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

    Re Matt on coffee. There's a nice bit of dialogue in the British movie Brassed Off from 1996, set in a Northern English mining town.
    Girl: Would you like to come up for some coffee?
    Boy: Thanks .. but I don't like coffee.
    Girl: that's all right, I don't have any.

RSS feed for comments on this post