This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Nuts and Bolts: say what you mean.

The English language was first cobbled together by English people.

Its manufacture was largely a matter of trial and error, together with a magpie-like stealing of pretty things from other languages.

English is still a work in progress, but luckily we now have half the people of the world chipping in to help get the thing working properly.

I say luckily because English people aren't really that good at speaking English.

Here, copied shamelessly from another part of the internet, is a list of some of the ways that English English is so often the opposite of clear and logical. 

I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view

With the greatest respect

You are an idiot

He is listening to me

That's not bad

That's good

That's poor
That is a very brave proposal
You are insane
He thinks I have courage

Quite good
A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is That is not very important

I was a bit disappointed that
I am annoyed that It doesn't really matter

Very interesting
That is clearly nonsense They are impressed

I'll bear it in mind
I've forgotten it already They will probably do it
I'm sure it's my fault It's your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don't agree at all He's not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please rewrite completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don't like your idea They have not yet decided

*     *      *    *    *

I suppose this does explain the rise of a special dialect called Business English, designed so that people across the globe can communicate with each other.

And, of course, it also explains why English people have such trouble speaking it.

Word To Use Today: incidentally. This word comes from the Latin incidens, an event, from the Latin incidere, to fall into.

Although no one seems to know who the author of the table above is, it's thought it may have originally been drawn up by a Dutch company to help employees working in the UK.


  1. That made me chuckle!

    My mum was English, and my Dad Scottish.
    He always said that the English were similar to women - they say the opposite of what they mean and they expect you to understand what you meant to say!
    He was a wise man! :)

    1. That explains the whole Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus thing in a single sentence.