What Brits say, and what we mean

While I'm quoting from Plato at Political Betting, she has just dug up on the internet an amusing guide which appeared in "The Economist" magazine a few years ago which quotes a number of phrases often used in business conversations by Brits, what they actually mean, and what they can all too easily be misunderstood to mean.

At the time this first came out I was working in a division of BT in which we had close colleagues all over the world, and my then boss put this table up above her desk - I presume to remind her not to say things which our European, Far Eastern, or American colleagues might misunderstand ...

Anyway, here is the table concerned

What the Brits say
What we mean
What others think they hear
I hear what you say
I disagree and do not wish to discuss it further
He is listening to me
With the greatest respect
You’re being an idiot
She respects my position
That’s not bad
That’s good
That’s a bit disappointing
That is a very brave position
That is insane
He respects my courage
Quite good
A bit disappointing
(US)  Very good
(Other) Fairly good
I would suggest  ...
Do this or be prepared to justify yourself
Think about the idea but it’s your decision
Oh incidentally/by the way
The main purpose of this conversation is ...
This is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that
I am furious that ...
This is a minor concern
Very interesting
What ridiculous nonsense
She is impressed
I’ll  bear it in mind
I have already forgotten
He might do this
Possibly through no fault of your own ...
You are in very serious trouble ...
She hasn’t decided who is to blame
You must come to dinner
I am merely being polite
I will get an invitation
I almost agree
I don’t agree at all
We are close to agreement
I only have a few minor comments
You will need to do a complete rewrite
He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options
I don’t like this proposal
She has not yet decided what to do


jim said…
We also say "if you find time, could you..." which means "get this done by the end of the day or else" but could be understood as "He thinks its a nice to have, but does not mind if I don't find time"

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