Another British-to-English phrase book

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"30 Things British People Say And What We Actually Mean" — worth adding to "Translated phrase-list jokes", 5/21/2011.



  1. John Wells said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    For number 19, the three meanings are usually (arguably) distinguished by intonation.
    I beg your pardon
    1. ‘I didn’t hear you.’ I /beg your pardon?
    — low rise nuclear tone on beg
    2. ‘I apologise.’ I ˈbeg your \/pardon.
    — fall-rise (or low fall) nuclear tone on pardon (or fall or fall-rise on beg)
    3. ‘I don’t agree’; I’m furious’ I /beg your pardon?
    — high rise nuclear tone on beg.

  2. Wayne Myers said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    All text there seems to have been lifted, uncredited, from the @SoVeryBritish twitter feed.

    I wonder if that's why the entire text of the article is presented as an image.

  3. BZ said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

    14, 16, 17, and 19 work equally well in the US. In fact, I had a teacher who more or less responded with the following utterances in order from mild disagreement to bewilderment:
    1. OK
    2. If you say so
    3. That's one way of looking at it
    4. Whatever you say
    5. WHAT?!?!?

  4. Pflaumbaum said,

    August 4, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

    Saying "I have the 5p if it helps", and never being quite sure if it helps.

    Ha, that's me right there! I've never really thought through what happens during that transaction, out of maybe 10% mathematical incompetence and 90% laziness. So I just always vaguely offer bits of change by way of politeness.

    Often I take it to the next level of pointlessness: "I think I've got the…" *rummages in pocket* …"I thought I had the… thanks."

  5. rosie said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 1:55 am

    Looking forward to the American-to-English phrasebook.

  6. Bart said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 2:54 am

    Re 14/16. I had a teacher who in response to some statement he disagreed with would say: 'If you're asking me if that's true the answer is 'no'. If you're telling me it's true the answer is 'oh, that's very interesting'.'
    So I learnt one useful thing from him.

  7. AndreLB said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 3:18 am

    Number 24 is interesting in that it uses a modal in expressing an intended and possibly impending course of action as opposed to a hypothetical one, as in "standard" readings. "I might get some cash out" (gets cash out), "I might head off now" (leaves), "I might eat this apple" (eats apple). I don't know (read: I do know ;-)) if this is specifically British though, as in my dialect (New Zealand English) we say this sort of thing too (as well as most of the examples on that list).

  8. Jeremy Wheeler said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 4:13 am

    There is a variation on 26: How interesting…

  9. Kai said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 4:32 am

    If someone wants the source of that list, it's – a rather amusing collection of "Very British Problems".

  10. richardelguru said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 6:03 am

    "18. Saying 'you're welcome'…"

    I've been living in the US for nigh on thirty five years (terrifying thought, but Oooooh! I got to use 'nigh on') and when I left the UK that phrase was pretty-well unknown, at least I'd never heard it outside US movies.
    I even wrote one of my silly radio pieces on the wonders of the phrase (Happy You'rewelcomegiving Day), and was so impressed by its efficiency that I started a campaign to have the day after Thanksgiving re-named 'You'rewelcomegiving'.
    Is it common over there now? If it is I suspect that it negates the entire list (including 18)!

  11. richardelguru said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 6:06 am

    Oh! My! God!! I just did a quick calculation and the 'on' that I am 'nigh' is the 3rd September, next month!!!1!!one!!1!

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 7:15 am

    Omitted from the list is BrEng "lovely" which with the right intonation can mean something like "I am so angry about how you've screwed things up I want to decapitate you with a chainsaw." (Based on fieldwork I conducted at a posh restaurant in Scotland about 20 years ago where the harried owner kept making excuses to a couple of middle-aged ladies from down south as to why their table still wasn't ready coming on two hours after the time they'd booked it for; it was very Fawlty-Towers-in-the-Hebrides.)

  13. Paul Clarke said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    J.W.Brewer: Similar to their number 9: "Perfect". Or "wonderful" in my personal usage.

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