Archive for March, 2011


March 26, 2011

I was raised by an Anglo-American mother who says “Are you going to finish your cake?” when she means “Can I have a bite?” So I am not unfamiliar with the Indirect Method of Communication.

But the British take it to another level.

Case No.1

After a date with a posh young Englishman, I asked if he’d like to go out again. He replied by email, “I’m terribly sorry, but I have a friend coming for a two-week visit. He’s getting married soon and I’m afraid we’ll be painting the town red, on top of which work is simply mad, and we’re celebrating my step-mother’s sixtieth next month.”

Then he added, “I don’t mean to be giving you the brush off.”


Because up to that point, we were clear. (Step-mother’s birthday party? Really? Talk about a brush off.)

So why end by saying the exact opposite of what he means?

I asked my English friend David to decode. Apparently, by acknowledging the brush off while simultaneously denying that any such brush off occurred, the gentleman was saving us both from embarrassment. And even, according to David, being quite direct.

To which I can only make one reply.




* “Erm” is how English people spell “Um.” Isn’t that adorable?



March 26, 2011