The Truth Behind British Politeness


  • Rafael Marcos Tort Peixoto Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul



Misunderstandings, Translation, Pragmatics


The purpose of this paper is to analyse a chart published by the British newspaper The Telegraphabout the most common misunderstandings foreigners face while making use of English as their second language. L2 speakers are said to take every word at face value and therefore making some pragmatic mistakes. Sometimes there can be another meaning behind the spoken words, like it is unsaid for a reason. The pragmatics theories of irony in Attardo (1999) shed light on these translating and intercultural awareness issues by explaining what is behind the misunderstanding which is the secret ofthe so famous British politeness. Some considerations will be made upon the chart so as to understand it, such as an analysis of irony and native speakers’ perspectives on it. In addition to that, we will take into account the opinion of some native speakers of English to unveil some details and clarify how meaningful some sentences may be and if the researched chart is actually accurate.


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ATTARDO, Salvatore. Irony as relevant inappropriateness. Youngstown: Youngstown State University, 1999.

HUANG, Yan. Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

LOCASTRO, Virginia. An Introduction to Pragmatics: Social Action for Language Teachers. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

PHILIPSON, Alice. Translation table explaining the truth behind British politeness becomes internet hit. London: 2013. Page available on: Last accessed on June the 6th at 15:00.




How to Cite

Peixoto, R. M. T. (2014). The Truth Behind British Politeness. BELT - Brazilian English Language Teaching Journal, 5(1), 53–59.