What the British REALLY mean
By Anna Trevelyan
An online survey conducted by Channel 4 into what makes us British revealed that we are a nation of tea lovers, who think we are polite and funny but drink too much. It’s not too surprising when you consider the results of the online poll – if I had taken part in the survey I would have said exactly the same thing (perhaps minus the tea…frankly I’d rather have a G&T).
The idea of British humour and politeness is an intriguing one. A lot of our humour comes from the stereotype of politeness: what we mean versus what we actually say. Perhaps we’re too polite, too shy or even passive-aggressive – but here are a few translations of what someone British may say versus what they actually mean:
“I like your hair” = your hair looks absolutely awful
“I love your hair” = your hair looks OK
“Is there someone sitting here?” = remove your bag/belongings from that seat immediately
“Can I help you?” = what the hell are you doing?
“Hope to see you soon” = I’m going to try to leave it as long as possible before I have to see you again
“You’re welcome to stay, of course” = we don’t want you to stay
“Best regards…” = I’m really angry/indifferent towards you
“I’m fine” = I’m really not fine/you have really annoyed me
“It’s different” = it’s vile
“Oh bless them…” = your baby/dog/child is quite ugly
“I don’t mind where we eat” = if you don’t just make the damn decision I’m going home
“Excuse me please” = get out of my way right now
“Are you in the queue?” = blooming well move along then
“Sorry” = I’m not sorry at all
“I’m so sorry” = I’m a tiny bit sorry
“It’s OK, it’s my fault really” = there is no way this is my fault
“Sorry, I’m a bit OCD” = A) you need to clean more and B) I don’t actually have OCD but I clearly clean more than you ever do
“What unusual perfume you’re wearing” = you honk to high Heaven
“You’re really adventurous with your outfits” = you look like an idiot
“Let me help you” = hurry the hell up
“The weather has been terrible” = I can’t be bothered to talk to you
I can see where people get confused, especially when we mean the exact opposite to what we say. But, as Channel 4’s online poll also revealed, 23% of those surveyed said that one of the worst characteristics of the British was complaining too much. We may have a moan every now and again, but I can see now how we cleverly mask our complaints with secret compliments (see above). Oh what it is to be British.
We’d love to know what you think! Add your British translations and join in the discussion on Facebook. Don’t forget to have your say today in our latest online paid surveys at Opinion Outpost UK – where it pays to say what you actually mean!