The Polite British English and What They Actually Mean

06 Apr.

When Mr John Thomas posted this image on British (polite) English and what it actually means, and what we understand from it, I could not but relive my 16 months long stay in Britain.

First, permit me to post that image from FB, and then add a few of my own experiences with British English (by no means exhaustive!)


The first thing, after I landed at London Heathrow airport, the came across, I heard was ‘please!’ with a long ‘eeeeee’, and I was deeply impressed. Later, during my stay at the University of Warwick and Oxford (in the UK), I realised what they acually it mean is what’s the problem with you?’ or a bit more mildly, ‘can’t you hear me?’ or ‘pay attention!’

So, here we go:

What the British say           What they mean                                                                       What we think of it 

Please                              what’s the matter with you/ what’s wrong with you                            What a lovely fellow!

                                          pay attention/ careful   

You are OK?                    Something is wrong with me?                                                            Are you fine?

Thank you                        You did your job                                                                               so courteous!

Sorry                                Can’t you see me?                                                                            S/he made a mistake

                                         How rude of you!                                                                              Let me forgive him/her

May I help you?               What business do you have here?                                                    So kind of you! S/he wants to help me!

Amazing                           So boring!                                                                                          Absolutely marvellous!

Brilliant                             How stupid (your idea is!)                                                                  Astounding!

If you may like                   Do it, you have no choice!                                                                 I am free to do it

One way of doing it is       This is the best way; do it!                                                                  How respectfully s/he suggests!

May I request you?           You have no choice                                                                           S/he is graceful/pleasant

Well, this is not the end. It is only the beginning. I will keep adding. In case you have something more to share, please feel free

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