Tuesday 21 May 2019

The English Language and the Subtle Differences in Transatlantic Understanding

YouGov showed common British phrases to 1.729 Britons and 1.952 US-Americans and asked the participants of the survey to interpret them. The results showed "plenty of common ground" but also "a difference in transatlantic understanding" with many US-Americans being "in danger of missing the serious passive aggression we Brits employ" (via and via).

Here are a few examples:

Statement: "With the greatest respect..."
Interpretation: "I think you are an idiot." (UK: 68%, US: 40%)
Interpretation: "I am listening to you." (UK: 24%, US: 49%)

Statement: "I'll bear it in mind."
Interpretation: "I've forgotten it already." (UK: 55%, US: 38%)
Interpretation: "I will probably do it." (UK: 32%, US: 43%)

Statement: "I hear what you say."
Interpretation: "I disagree and do not want to discuss it further." (UK: 48%, US: 32%)
Interpretation: "I accept your point of view." (UK: 45%, US: 58%)

Statement: "You must come for dinner."
Interpretation: "It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite." (UK: 57%, US: 45%)
Interpretation: "I will send you an invitation soon." (UK: 34%, US: 41%)

For more details see LINK and LINK.

"We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."
Oscar Wilde

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photograph (London, 1975) via


  1. Hahaha! Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Some surveys are quite entertaining :-)
    Many, many thanks for dropping by and leaving comments, Kenneth, Sam, and Wim!