3 phrases Brits use more than the rest of the English-speaking world: Part I

As an American, moving to England seemed like an easy step: they speak English, they watch Friends and The Simpsons, and they’re basically our motherland. Yet while those things are fundamentally true, it doesn’t stop the lingo from constantly confusing a newcomer.

Below is the first of the three most common phrases you’ll hear after spending any length of time with the British (plus what it means in each situation).

Sorry

At first, I was constantly thinking, “Why is everyone apologizing all the time?” Then I realized that ‘sorry’ is the polite way to indicate several other common phrases:

  • As an apology for bumping into someone on the train, sidewalk (pavement), bus, in the shop, etc.

  • When someone bumps into you on the train, sidewalk (pavement), bus, in the shop, etc.

  • To indicate to someone that you are about to squeeze past them into a seat, spot near the bar, grocery store aisle, doorway, open space, etc.

  • To indicate to someone trying to squeeze past you that you didn’t mean to be in their way.

  • As a synonym for “pardon?” when you can’t hear them and you’d like them to repeat what they’ve just said.

  • When someone has said “pardon?” and you realize you weren’t talking loud enough for them to hear.

  • Forcefully, instead of “excuse me,” when asking someone to get the hell out of your way.

  • Snobbishly when someone has said a forceful “excuse me” and you’d like to tell them to bugger off.

  • When you come to an awkward standstill in a store because you both wanted to go in the doorway at the same time.

  • After the awkward standstill is over to acknowledge you are truly sorry for that horrendous situation.

  • At any point in time where you were the reason someone couldn’t get past.

  • At any point in time where you held someone up for a nanosecond longer than necessary.

  • If someone glances at you because you’ve made a noise louder than the soft murmur that seems to coat all of England.

Public safety announcement: this is by no means a comprehensive list. You’re best off using “sorry” anytime you’re in doubt, trying to be polite, or interacting with other (British) humans.

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phone booths in London and three phrases to know before visiting the UK wording for Pinterest

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