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Half of Americans Can't Tell When a British Person Is Calling Them an Idiot, Study Says

British people surrendering sarcastically, maybe? | Shutterstock
British people surrendering sarcastically, maybe? | Shutterstock

It's pretty common for Americans to flex how sophisticated they are by saying they love British comedy. Whether that's you or not, you should concern yourself less with posturing and more with how we apparently can't understand a word British people are saying. Which brings up a lot of questions about the Revolutionary War.

According to a survey by YouGov, "half of Americans wouldn't be able to tell that a Briton is calling them an idiot." The study was spurred by a meme highlighting the discrepancy between the literal translation of common phrases and the bitter irony behind them. The results are pretty concerning (and embarrassing). 

Consider for instance that in the UK when someone says "with the greatest respect," 68% of British people will hear, "I think you are an idiot," while 49% of Americans will hear, "I am listening to you." On a similar note, 55% of British people interpret the phrase "I'll bear it in mind" as code for, “I’ve forgotten it already,” whereas only 38% of Americans would interpret it that way.  

None of this is a good sign for the American kids studying abroad right now. If that's you, know that when it comes to the phrase "You must come for dinner," Britons are much more likely to consider that a polite, empty phrase than an actual extended invitation.

According to the BBC, YouGov surveyed 1,700 British people and 1,900 Americans for this important study (you can separately see the American results and the British results). Before you start judging our neighbors from across the pond, remember that nothing cuts deeper than the American expression, "Bless your heart." 

Maybe we should all take some lessons in brutal honesty from the Dutch

h/tYouGov, BBC


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James Chrisman is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @james_chrisman2.