Linguistic misunderstandings

When they hear the phrase “With the greatest respect…”, 68% of Britons think it means “I think you are an idiot”, while 49% of Americans interpret it as “I am listening to you”.

When told “I’ll bear it in mind”, 55% of Britons assume it means “I’ve forgotten it already”, whereas only 38% of Americans think this way  (YouGov/BBC News)

I have to say these are wild generalisations.  This said, I put the difference down to the influx of European migrants into the US in the 19th Century.  When they learned English they interpreted every word literally, whereas English is a difficult and illogical language, but full of subtleties and metaphors.

Many in today’s US are not good at spotting when something is said ironically, with tongue in cheek, or in a jokey way.  You quickly learn that metaphors and subtleties can be misunderstood by the man in the street, who doesn’t do nuance. Say what you mean, straight, that’s the safe way.

Pity in a way. Some of the best jokes are plays on words.



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