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What do you Mean ??? story about What we say, English Politness and How to say , 'NO'

When I asked my husband,' What do we normally say when we do not mean something?', the answer was,' we telling porkies'. In other words, we are lying. Wrong question!!!!

But he, alike me and most of us have this habit of using certain words and expression that do not fit linguistic" collocation" mark. Hence, they can be mistaken for something else.

Once, a Russian Teacher of English asked me to buy a course from her. (I had attended her workshop as it was something unusual. ) She wrote to me a very cheerful letter- an invitation. I answered back,' I am afraid, I do not fit the requirement'... And she wrote me a good letter cheering and encouraging, it started with the phrase" DO not be afraid".

It is not all that much coded and many people swear and even link their words with f* one. What I want to say, it is better to understand the way sometimes you need to speak and take information as it is without being misled and offended. And yes, it can be called a simply- ' a lie'. It is kind of a problem to be polite or to be honest. But when you get encouraging; " it is interesting", things do not look too bad, maybe there is a bit of 'interesting' in?

But do not take it as an offence, we just want to make it a bit easier to take, slightly warmer. We do not want to break one's heart or upset people. It is not only British Culture that uses a certain set of expression.

I would divide all coded messages into 5 types.

Cliche that we use without even thinking about meaning, e.g. ' Nice to meet you'


'Are you wearing that hat?' could mean 'I don't think wearing that hat is a good idea.' 'Have you looked in the mirror?' could mean 'That hat looks silly.' 'Are you not taking a coat?' could mean 'It's cold.' 'Are you still here?' could mean 'You'll be late.' 'Are you serious?' could mean 'I think that's a bad idea.' 'Are you leaving?' could mean 'I think you should stay.'"

(BBC Learning English,6.07.21)

'We do not want to be hard on you"

'It was/is interesting,' mean sometimes 'I see you were working hard'

'It was/is educational,' more likely to be read as ' A bit of time wast, but now I know'

We have another opinion! Words that changing meaning-But how to put it ....

To make a point more or less linked to/connected to our emotion or view on...

' It was an exhausting project to be fair we learnt so much from it- It did not work well, but we learnt the lesson and WILL do better next time

'You played Rochmaninoff really well , but to be fair it was not going very smooth at the end.' It was not all that good.

FORM of the expression is changed by intonation to the opposite in sense.But in general we use it to ask for a favour.

'Do you mind +' More likely expresses how annoyed we are e.g. 'you are sitting on my hat', 'it is my place' ,'stop making noise' etc. compare to ,' Do you mind if I sit down here?'

'Excuse me!' oh it is a well know way to show how angry you are. and could be 'Excuse me! Who allowed you to eat my ice-cream!''

'I beg your pardon' definitely tells you off, could be interpreted as " you really think I allowed you to do this?' ' Do you think I am silly'

Among them should be listed also “Quite”, “somewhat”, “rather” fundamentally English ways of avoiding giving confrontational opinions directly.


How often because of a tiny-wenee word- preposition or combination of words it changes meaning of the phrase.How many words came from some poem(e.g. Shakespeare) or traditional rhymes etc. Nowadays, a golden mine of sayings is in films!

'I am not going to beat around the bushes'- Nothing to do with gardening or hunting!

'double up' - nothing to do with having something on top...but means to bend or to make your body bend over quickly, for example because you are in pain.

or Lock, stock, and barrel , meaning "all", "total" or "everything"."Wexford farm sells lock, stock and barrel for over €1.4m" (The Independent)

It can be interpreted as "cards", "money" and "guns"

One character of The Lock ,stock and two smoking barrels tells another (trying to show 'important' of little pleasant things we do)"The Entire British Empire was built on cups of tea"

And of cause there is simply a LIE !

Further reading


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