25 Things British Say vs What They Actually Mean (That You Never Knew)

British politeness isn’t alway so polite. We Americans tend to think of Brits, as a quaint and utterly charming people. While many enjoy British humor from Monty Python to Hugh Laurie (yep the mean guy who played House got his start in comedy). Yet, somehow, Americans find a way to forget the British style of dry humor when face-to-face.

1. I Hear What You Say. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I agree.

What The British Really Mean: I could not possibly disagree more. This discussion is over.

Talk about your misunderstandings. Our neighbors ‘across the pond’ are subtly trying to tell you to hush.

2. With The Greatest Respect. . .

What Americans Think It Means: He/she respects what I have to say.

What The British Really Mean: You’re an idiot.

Said, of course, in a really nice way. Nevertheless, the Brit absolutely thinks you couldn’t be more wrong.

3. That’s A Brave Proposal. . .

What Americans Think It Means: How courageous of me.

What The British Really Mean: You are insane.

Again, nicely put. But does not change the fact, in the Brit’s mind anyway that you’ve gone and lost your marbles.

4. I was disappointed in that. . .

What Americans Think It Means: He/she was disappointed.

What The British Really Mean: I am incredibly annoyed.

There is a chasm of difference between disappointed and annoyance. Whatever just happened, don’t let it happen again!

5. Very Interesting. . .

What Americans Think It Means: The topic of discussion is interesting.

What The British Really Mean: This is a completely nonsensical discussion.

Take the hint and change the subject.

6. I’ll Bear It In Mind. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I’ve just made an excellent point.

What The British Really Mean: I’ve forgotten the idea already.

The British are only kindly trying to tell you that a change of subject is desperately in order.

7. I’m Sure It’s My Fault. . .

What Americans Think It Means: Why are they blaming themselves?

What The British Really Mean: It’s your fault.

May as well drop it and let bygones be bygones.

8. You Must Come For Dinner. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I got an invitation!

What The British Really Mean: There’s  no way in the world I would have you over for dinner.

The British motto should become, ‘kill them with kindness.’ The politeness is uncanny and gets to be unnerving.

9. Excuse Me, Sorry, Is Anyone Sitting Here?

What Americans Think It Means: A polite excuse.

What The British Really Mean: You have less than 5 seconds to move your purse.

The British are not well known for their patience.

 10. I Almost Agree. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I almost have him/her convinced.

What The British Really Mean: I completely disagree.

Time to change the subject, once more. Especially in light of how kind the British person is acting.

11. I Only Have A Few Comments. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I did a great job on this paper.

What The British Really Mean: This entire paper must be rewritten.

There are some Americans who can get snobbish about writing errors.  Nothing like a person in the ‘mother tongue’ telling you it is time for a do-over.

12. Not To Worry. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I have no reason to worry.

What The British Really Mean: You have every reason in the world to worry.

When this phrase is used it is certainly time to worry as something is not quite as it should be.

13. Sorry. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I really do apologize.

What The British Really Mean: I was just being polite.

This word is used often by the British, Americans just need to lighten up.

14. Bit Wet Out There. . .

What Americans Think It Means: It’s sprinkling.

What The British Really Mean: It’s pouring.

The British are brilliant in understating the problem at hand.

15. Right Then, I Suppose I Really Should Start Thinking About Possibly Making A Move.

What Americans Think It Means: ?

What The British Really Mean: Good-bye. I’m off.

Unless the American is quite familiar with their British chum, this answer could ruin a relationship.

16. It’s Fine.

What Americans Think It Means: It’s fine.

What The British Really Mean: It can’t possibly get any worse, but I know it’s going to.

Pay attention to the tone here.  Was the phrase said with clinched teeth. Yes? Then there is a problem at hand to solve.

17. A Bit Of A Pickle. . .

What Americans Think It Means:  All we have to do is find the solution

What The British Really Mean: We’re all gonna die.

The British form of introducing dooms day destruction into  the discussion.

18. Not Too Bad, Actually. . .

What Americans Think It Means: I’m fine.

What The British Really Mean: I feel fantastic.

19. Honestly, It Doesn’t Matter.

What Americans Think It Means: It’s ok.

What The British Really Mean: It matters more than anything.

Now is the time to ask intrusive questions to discover what exactly matters.

20. You’ve Caught The Sun.

What Americans Think It Means: ?

What The British Really Mean: You’re sun burned.

Sometimes the British speaker will communicate so obliquely you don’t know what’s going on.

21. It’s A Bit Dear. . .

What Americans Think It Means:  It’s adorable.

What The British Really Mean: It’s too expensive.

22. That’s Certainly One Way Of Looking At It.

What Americans Think It Means: Their listening to my point of view.

What The British Really Mean:  That is absolutely the wrong way to look at it.

Trust me, change the topic.

23. I Might Join You Later.

What Americans Think It Means: I look forward to seeing you later.

What The British Really Mean: Even if the house were on fire, I won’t be joining you.

Perhaps the British person you know is simply too tired and did not wish to be rude.

24. Perfect.

What Americans Think It Means: Perfect.

What The British Really Mean: It certainly is not perfect.

Brits aren’t the only ones to ‘turn a phrase’ as it were. Americans did the same with words like ‘bad’ being interpreted as excellent.

25. Could We Consider Some Other Options?

What Americans Think It Means:  Still undecided.

What The British Really Mean:  I hate your idea.

Maybe, it’s little more than a restaurant that has been suggested. Either way it’s time to change the subject.

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