Understanding “British”

Mez McConnell has a fun post on “Understanding the British Language.”  Fifteen statements, properly translated for non-Brits to understand (and informing Brits of what non-Brits think they mean).  Two of my favourites:

What the British Say:

With the greatest respect….

What the British Mean:

I think you are an idiot.

What Others Understand:

He is listening to me.


What the British Say:

I’ll bear it in mind.

What the British Mean:

I’ve forgotten it already.

What Others Understand:

They will probably do it.

A previous post on a non-Brit trying to come to terms with British culture:  11/11/11 — “Would You Like to Buy a Poppy?”

Though I posted this in “Just for Fun,” there are spiritual applications.  Our words may hold different meanings than we intended to those to whom we are speaking — and they may have meant to communicate differently from what we think we are hearing.  We need to be quick to hear and slow to speak, charitable, and humble.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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4 Responses to Understanding “British”

  1. alcoramdeo says:

    How very much we presume, and how essential our Lord’s instruction to trust in Him with all our heart and lean not unto our own understanding. Excellent post, dear Brother.

  2. jackielahora says:

    yeah, you’re right. which is why it’s never a good idea to translate between two languages cause you can never capture a language’s essence by doing so. and it teaches us that things arent what they sound like to us, so we have to learn to LISTEN and get involved in the language process.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Interesting comment, Jackie. Never translate? But I could never learn French and Chinese and German and ancient Greek and Hebrew and Latin, and I’ve profited by reading works that were written in those languages. Not everyone can learn ten languages, after all.

      I think this is more evidence that translation has to be done by someone who really is proficient in both languages. And it does require a recognition that translations have limits, and knowledge of the original language in which something was written is very helpful.

      But I like your last line very much. We don’t have to slavishly follow a translation and forget that it is a translation. Even if a person doesn’t know the language, by listening to someone who does, we can still “get involved in the language process” to some extent. For example, I can explain the force of the Greek present tense or perfect tense to those who don’t know the language, and that helps refine their understanding of the original text of the New Testament. They can indeed get involved in the language process to some extent, and the more they are able to do so, the more their understanding of it will benefit.

      Thank you for the thought-provoking comment..

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