As you may remember, I spent many of my formative years in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. One of the first things I realized upon arriving to that fair city was that speaking English for years in Greece had not prepared me for the thrill of actually communicating with the natives. Specifically, I was caught unawares of the wonderful nuances that make all the difference.
“How are you today?” I’d ask my fellow students.
“Aye, not too bad, actually” they’d reply.
“Why, what’s wrong?” I’d ask, clueless to the fact that this is a Scotsman’s understated way of saying, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
So, when I found a hilarious post on The Idealist Revolution website on the subject, I just had to share as a helpful guide to my American friends, anyone setting their scenes in the UK and anyone wanting to visit…
British English Translated: what they say and what it means
‘I might join you later’ — Translation: I’m not leaving the house today unless it’s on fire.
‘Excuse me, sorry, is anyone sitting here?’ — Translation: You have 3 seconds to move your bag before I get really annoyed.
‘Not to worry.’ — Translation: I will never forget this!
‘Bit wet out there.’ — Translation: Don’t forget your snorkel before heading out.
‘Right then, I really should start to think about possibly making a move.’ — Translation: Bye!
‘It’s fine.’ — Translation: It really couldn’t get any worse, but it probably will do…
‘Perfect.’ — Translation: Well, that’s ruined then!
‘A bit of a pickle.’ — Translation: We’re thoroughly screwed, as a result of a catastrophically bad situation with potentially fatal consequences.
‘Honestly, it doesn’t matter.’ — Translation: Nothing has ever mattered more than this.
‘You’ve caught the sun.’ — Translation: You look like you’ve been swimming in a volcano.
‘That’s certainly one way of looking at it.’ — Translation: Only an idiot could look at it this way.
‘If you say so.’ — Translation: What you’re saying is the height of idiocy. You’re an idiot.
‘With all due respect…’ — Translation: Not only are you an idiot, so is your mother and every member of your extended family.
‘It could be worse.’ — Translation: It couldn’t possibly be any worse, unless a giant asteroid was headed our way and we only had 5 seconds to live.
‘Each to their own.’ — Translation: You’re too much of an idiot for me to even discuss things with you.
‘Pop around anytime.’ — Translation: If you show up around my house, I’ll release the hounds.
‘I’m just popping out for lunch, does anyone else want anything?’ — Translation: I’m getting my own lunch now, please don’t ask me to get you anything.
‘No, no, honestly it was my fault.’ — Translation: It was absolutely your fault and we both know it.
‘No, yeah, that’s very interesting!’ — Translation: Your story is so boring that I’m quietly slipping into a coma.
‘No harm done.’ — Translation: You have ruined everything.
‘Just whenever you get a minute…’ — Translation: Now!
‘I’m sure it’ll be fine.’ — Translation: The situation is deteriorating rapidly, and it’s all your fault.
While pondering the famous “two nations divided by a common language” saying, why not enjoy my award-winning children’s book, Runaway Smile for free?
Now you’re really getting me going! Sodomy was named after the biblical city Sodom, where these acts presumably occurred. So there quite possibly is a link between the words; likely they (yesod and Sodom) are in the same family of words, all with the same root, pardon the pun.
Lol – pardoned 😀
Gotta love the English language. We use a number of those phrases in Australia 😀
They’re rather good… 😀
Reblogged this on MDI – creative writing and commented:
British English translated!
Worth a look 🙂
Hilarious, Nicholas. I can see how a person could really get in trouble for not understanding the real meaning. 😀
Lol – absolutely 😀
Lovely. 🙂 there are many meanings to the phrase ‘excuse me’ too. I have relatives living in the states and after going round to visit some friends of our hosts my husband turned to me and said, ‘well, I think they may have understood about every third word you said.’ He also laughed at me for saying ‘cheers’ when I mean thank you or to say ta ta I shops. He said, ‘you’ll really have to stop that, nobody has a fecking clue what you mean’
Then again it works two ways. I remember my Canadian sister in law talking about sitting on the sod with her fanny bag and being completely perplexed.
Cheers (there it is again)
Lol – I love cheers! One of the first words I picked up in Edinburgh, and one of the most versatile ones. “Hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome.” A jack of all trades!
Now, what was that sod the fanny thing? Sounds seriously messed up 😀
Canadians, and some Americans, call a lawn a sod. So they have sod farms (turf farms) and talk about lying out on the sod where we would talk about sitting on the grass. A North American’s ‘fanny’ is her bottom, I’ve no idea what she calls her actual fanny, probably her unmentionables or something.
“Sod” is somewhat universal – our South American gardeners use it. In fact, if you’re interested, the Hebrew word for ground is “yesod” and we’re talking Biblical vocabulary.
Blimey! I had no idea that word’s so old!
That’s so intriguing. British folks talk about sod as in ground, tilling the sod but there’s an insulting version, too and that one is prevalent.
Ha ha, M T McGuire! Seems so often if a word can have a “base” meaning, it does!!
I though the insulting version had to do with sodomy, not mud 😀
Never knew what “sod it!” meant – thought it had something to do with throwing dirt on it!
Lol – ‘fraid not. Think less gardening and more Sodoma and Gomorra 😀
The insulting one…yes. 🙂
The word “sod” is somewhat universal. Our South and Central American gardeners, whose first language is Spanish, use it. A little history of the word: The Hebrew Biblical word for ‘the ground’ is “yesod,” also used to mean ‘fundamentals.’ We are talking thousands of years old, here, that word “sod.”
Utterly confusing 😀
Oh dear… Here was me growing up in Scotland and accepting those statements as is. My whole life people have been fickle and sarcastic… 🙁
😛 Kidding. You missed one though- when out for a meal we will say ‘are you done?’. Translates roughly as ‘are you gonna take all day to eat that?’
Oh, I always thought they were asking me for a piece of my cake 😀
They’re always in want for something hu… lol
Nicholas, these were hilarious! I was LOL the whole time reading it 😀 ! Thank you for the good cheer before ending my day last night.
Blessings for a cheerful day,
Aw, such a sweet thing to say. Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as me 🙂
This sounds so much like Canadians! No wonder the Americans joke and call us colonials. (At least, I hope they’re joking…) I once saw an image of a Canadian protestor holding up a sign that read, “I’m a little upset now.” Understatement is our specialty. (Understand, however, that when a Canadian is upset, he doesn’t take out a semiautomatic later and randomly kill people.)
Connie, what are the gun laws like in Canada – similar to UK, except you probably haven’t banned handguns for sport? I’m curious, as I only remember one incident in Canada, fairly recently, but that’s it. *crimeworm is mortified as Connie asks her if she’s ever heard of Wikipedia…*
Lol. Canadians can have handguns, but they have to be registered. Generally they’re not that popular in my neck of the woods. Stats report that if there’s a crime, you’re more likely to be shot with your own gun than anything else. Instead of wiki, check out this article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/10/23/why-canadas-gun-culture-is-different-and-why-its-shootings-shock-america/. I like that in the UK, only AFOs are allowed to carry guns. I think they just lead to more violence.
I could hug you… 😀
Thanks Connie, I’ve bookmarked that for a read as I’m meant to be back at work, in theory! There was a bit of a to-do in Scotland as normal street cops were photographed walking about Inverness city centre (which is hardly The Wire, in fact it’s lovely) and other places with handguns. They weren’t AROs, they were beat cops. It hit the papers and the head of Police Scotland’s presence was demanded at the Scottish parliament and he had to apologise profusely, as there’d obviously been no consultation with the MSPs, or the public. If it wasn’t for people taking pictures, we’d never have heard. So many rank-and-file have told me how much they hate him for it not to be true. Theresa May had wanted him for the Met last time there was a changeover at the top – I wish she’d taken him. He runs Scottish policing like it’s his own personal fiefdom. Rant over, sorry Connie. The most nonsensical c**p the gun lobby come out with is, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” How stupid can people be?
I’ve heard a lot about him and the new gun policies. All good things, too :b
Apparently extremely so. While it’s true that people kill people, guns make it easier and less personal. I recall reading books and articles about Sarajevo, and what amazed me was how an ordinary person–someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, etc.–could be completely transformed into a sniper.
Regarding Theresa May, there’s an article in the Guardian on her today: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jul/23/theresa-may-independent-review-deaths-police-custody-speech.
Fascinating! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Now, Crimeworm, is that “Rant over, sorry Connie” or is it “Rant over, ‘sorry’ Connie”?.
Lol – just another thing I love about Canadians 🙂
Another thing is that when we’re “dissed” by someone, we tend to apologise. ;D
Lol – I love that 😀
Just like my friend Zouganelis (who studied and worked in Canada) said – “Canada: a nation full of Rossises” 😀
(oh my, I just remembered it’s his birthday today! Off to send him a card 🙂 )
Connie, the protestor sign made me laugh out loud…that was a good example of understatement.
Most “loose canon” Americans have snapped long before they commit a crime. In my opinion, Americans are way over stimulated, and can’t shut down the mind chatter for even a moment. If we don’t learn to shut the loud music off for one minute, stop idolizing and emulating people who don’t deserve such attention, and begin to slow the pace, meditate on the good in life and our blessings, then this course will only get worse. I pray for our return to goodness and rightness.
I love the thought of slowing down!
Check out https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/a5/00/c9/a500c9b7c5c305c3e0b20914747f74bc.jpg to see the image to which I’m referring.
Heh heh, I love that meme 😀
You are hilarious! I’m definitely sharing this post with friends. (I’m an American, by the way, so I really can be taken literally.)
ROFL – thanks for the clarification 😀
Most credit goes to The Idealist Revolution, but thanks 🙂
Great post! I’m Scottish, and it amuses me that we use THE WORST SWEAR WORD in an affectionate way, or when just talking about what anyone else would call a “guy” or a “bloke”. Tourists must get a shock.
I’m scratching my head, but nothing… What word is that? Just whisper it here 🙂
Oh Nicholas don’t pretend you’ve led a sheltered life. We both know that’s a lie…..:-))
Reblogged this on Julie Lawford and commented:
This had me weeping with laughter. Just too funny – and too true – not to share.
I think you got this spot on
Thank you – and welcome 🙂
All too true, Nicholas! When we came to UK my mother took ‘pop around anytime’ literally and often popped over to a neighbours (without calling in advance – she didn’t know that was the protocol!). Quite soon it was the friendliest street in the village with a warm community spirit resulting in many a merry parties. Oh, languages are so fickle. 🙂
Lol – I’m glad to hear the neighbors didn’t end up hiding every time she knocked on their door 😀
Ha Ha..spot on and this is what us English ladies say and really mean to our menfolks
FINE: This is the word when we end an argument and you need to shut -up.
NOTHING: Means something and you need to be worried:)
Ouch, these are like the nuclear bombs of arguments. The only one even worse is, “whatever” 😀
Reblogged this on Facets of a Muse and commented:
So funny! Thank you, Nicholas, for sharing these! Reminds me of Minnesotan (seriously! There’s even a book on How to Talk Minnesotan) in the understatement department. Really. I’m sure it’ll all be fine 🙂
As my best friend who resides in the U.K. says: Brilliant! 🙂
Bloody marvelous 😀
Brilliant. You’ve nailed so many of these ! ☺
Lol – credit goes to The Idealist Revolution actually, but thanks 🙂
Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess and commented:
OMG This is soo my family talking. I guess you can send the Scot to America but you can’t shut them up
The epitome of polite society and understatement, it seems. Very funny.
Oh, absolutely. Compared to Edinburgh, I now live in rude-land.
Ha ha. Rude-land?
Sigh… A neologism, for sure, but accurate enough, I’m afraid 🙂
I suppose a sense of humor comes in handy. It does here in the US, or we’d be offended all day long. (Sigh).
I always say each to his/her own when I’m done having a conversation. I guess I use that phrase ” correctly.”
Everything else made me LOL. Thank you for sharing.
“Each to their own” is a great one 😀
Reblogged this on BOOK CHAT and commented:
Nicholas Rossis’ take on translating British English.
We Americans are definitely in a bit of a pickle over this.
Lol – absolutely 😀
Ha! So true. If my father (who was Scottish) would say “it wasn’t too bad” you’d know to expect the worst experience of your life!
Lol – he’d probably say that in the middle of the Apocalypse 😀
Oh, my – now I know what my grandmother was actually saying….
Totally wonderful post. Thanks
So glad to help bridge the generation gap 😀
Ha ha – DOUBLE LIKE!!!
Some, like “Whenever you get a minute” and “If you say so” definitely work on this side of the pond as well. I can hear them now…..
So glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks and welcome 😀
These are delightfully funny! You would enjoy a list of Southern expressions from the States I bet!!
I so would! Are you volunteering?
Sure. Let me work up a list.
Thanks for the chuckles, Nicholas!
When I visited England, from America, I had to get a few quick lessons!
Lol – glad you enjoyed it 😀
Hilarious, especially when I ran them through my head with the Scots accent! But I think they might apply anywhere…
Lol – probably. Can you imagine them with a Southern accent?
Ha Ha! You have got us sussed! 🙂
Lol – I’m on to you 😀
Hilarious! I laughed out loud several times. This post just made my entire week! Though I’m slightly worried that people will start to overanalyse everything I say from now on 😉
Lol – probably 😀
I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Reblogged this on Books and More.
Love this! They made me giggle, especially this one: “‘I’m just popping out for lunch, does anyone else want anything?’ — Translation: I’m getting my own lunch now, please don’t ask me to get you anything.”
Lol – yes, that’s a classic 😀
Gee, I believe some of these entries can be found in the “What Does She Really Mean by That” dictionary.. just sayin
Lol – probably true 😀
Many of these have the same meaning on this side of the Atlantic. All you would need is to through in the occasional “Bless his/her heart” = that person better hope that miracles happen because otherwise he/she is a hot mess.
Lol – I love that one 😀
Hahaha! I had to tweet to my UK friend. She’ll love this, and she’ll know I’m on to her. 😀 American: Whatever = Conversation over!
Ooh, yes, “whatever” is a great one 😀
BTW, I just posted my 5 star review of Infinite Waters, entitled “A Special Treat”. 😉
Aw, that’s so sweet – and high praise indeed, coming from you! Rushing off to Zon now. Thank you!!
So accurate, Nicholas! And great for use in the mouths of our characters. After all, it’s the unsaid that’s often most telling… Thanks for sharing!
Lol – hadn’t thought of it that way. Thanks for the inspiring comment! 🙂
Being English, I really enjoyed this of course, Nicholas. I love the way certain expressions and phrases confuse and confound non-native English speakers. (And Americans too) I would urge all British people to use them all the time, and to re-discover some older and forgotten ones to throw into the conversation. One great tip is to try to get a French-speaker to pronounce the name of the Irish beer, Guinness. They usually find it impossible not to say it as ‘gwannesse’
Britain has a difficult mix of language anyway, as you will know, having lived in Scotland. We have impenetrable Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish accents, regional dialects that sometimes necessitate subtitles on news interviews, and a wealth of countryside and city local words and expressions that are unique to the areas they originated.
I wrote something about this on my blog. It may be of passing interest.
Best wishes as always. Pete.
Thank you so much for sharing the links. I’d seen the americanese post, but not the accents one 🙂
The poor French… Learning Greek is even worse for them, since we have both a rolling R and a gutteral gamma. Their worst word has to be “gargaro” (gurgling).
Reblogged this on Legends of Windemere and commented:
For all my British friends . . . now I’ll know what you really mean. 😉
Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
British English Translated….‘A bit of a pickle.’ — Translation: We’re thoroughly screwed, as a result of a catastrophically bad situation with potentially fatal consequences. Thank you Nicholas Rossis!
You know I love Crete, but my favourite Greek expression, from someone who is going to do a job for you is: “I’ll be there tomorrow,” – Translation: “maybe I’ll get around to it sometime this month.”
Emphasis on “maybe” 😀
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
So Now You know – Translation – You’ve just run out of lame excuses… 😀
Laughed like a drain, thank you Nicholas! Having lived in England and married a Brit, I can vouch for the accuracy of this post, hahahaaaa 🙂
Lol – a great endorsement, then. Thank you 😀
Ah well when you’ve lost an empire with the speed and carelessness the British did you have every reason to be understated. Lovely post and spot on translation. Now can any one explain why we are always saying sorry and thank you when clearly the situation calls for neither? Another lost empire throwback? Oh and what about ‘never mind’ = ‘you idiot you’ve ruined everything’
Ooh, that’s a great one. “Never mind” is particularly scary when it’s a lady uttering it, while glaring at her husband. Instant knee-jelling material.
‘Knee-jelling’ is new to me. ‘Bottom-clenching’ another I like but for a ‘foreigner you really have mastered what we Sou’Thefricans call ‘Die Taal’!
Perhaps if you have to leave Greece you could join the Diplomatic service as a translator?
To be fair, knee-jelling is mine, so it kinda makes sense you’ve never heard of it before… 😀
A translator, huh? Sounds like fun 🙂
Oh dear, just realised how much I speak in cliches
Lol – don’t we all? 😀
Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
This is hilarious – brighten up your day by reading it.
Very funny, Nick, because its so true!
Lol – absolutely 😀
Great interpretations of the British so called ‘understatement’ which also reveals the unwillingness to spell it out ( lest you have to take responsibility for being ‘seen’) Going slimly is the national disease! As a non- native UK inhabitant this might provoke further developments!
It is probably why I am publishing a book of short stories to reveal that unseen gulf between the natives and the immigrants. The humour that underlies a philosophy of survival!
I’m looking forward to reading that!
I once read a book called the mask. It had this great phrase (quoted here from memory), “I’m English. I was born with a mask.”
I might just ask you for an endorsement, because uniquely placed to read between the lines.
Happy to oblige 🙂
That is true generosity from a very busy man. I could drip feed you with one at a time. Two of the collection of 12 have been published by Narrative ( one from each side) They can be found here https://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/stories-week-2013-2014/blerrie-fockin-beautiful-philippa-rees (This one is also published as an audio reading I donated but they are charging to listen to- that will stop soon and it will be available for free) and the other (English one) is here https://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/stories-week-2014-2015/nuisance-value-philippa-rees
I have a habit of digging under humour ( and pretty well everything!) for philosophy, so forgive!
I enjoyed the humour for its own sake, but vices and virtues are very close kin.
Hmm… I need to register with Narrative first, so I’ll have to do that first. Unless, of course, you have them in word/pdf format and you can email me a copy 🙂
Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
More from our Nicholas 😀
‘It could be worse’ that’s one I use all the time LOL
Lol – The one I use a lot is “not too bad” 😀
That as well 🙂
Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
I think we all face the ‘lost in translation’ problem when we live abroad at first. I have managed to have some great foot in mouth moments here in Spain… Here is Nicholas Rossis guide to the British language and its nuances…
I lived in the Toon for a while and well it was hard for my English friends, but having lived in various languages before I adapted quickly and even had a slight Geordie accent for a while… Ok not for the real Geordies but for anyone not Geordie I was a Newcastle native :p
Loved these translations…
Heh heh, I have a Scottish accent that pops up every now and then. The problem with living for years in Edinburgh 😀
As a Brit, living in the US, I’ve become bilingual. 😉
Lol – the perfect combo 😀
Hilarious. It had me laughing out loud while tears stream down my face, always when I have such a good laugh it triggers the tears *dont know why* . This one was the best ‘With all due respect…’ — Translation: Not only are you an idiot, so is your mother and every member of your extended family….I think I’m going to throw the words ‘with all due respect’ in some of my twitter replies/comments. *Contemplates…* Erm on second thought…maybe not. Don’t want them to release the hounds.
ROFL – I’ll be sure to look out for your “respect” 😀
Lol, you had me practically rolling on the floor – excellant 🙂 Mind you, I think I can offer you up a good New Zealand one that would definitely have you screwing up your face trying to figure out what I was saying. Over here if someone said to you. “wow, that’s seriously munted”. they would be telling you something was very damaged or warped 🙂
Lol- I’ll be looking forward to your expose of NZ translations, then 😀
Lol, I’ll have to get onto that then 🙂
Excuse me for butting in…Does that mean: Never in your wildest dreams? (;
Lol – I’d translate it as, “You’re full of it. Thankfully, I’m here now, so I can explain what things are *really* like.”
Thank you! I really enjoyed it. Brilliant!!!
Lol – thanks 😀