Would you mind terribly if…

…we talked about politeness?


British politeness is a much exploited stereotype, epitomized perhaps by Hugh Grant’s performances in various romantic comedies in the 1990s, notably Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Remember his famous declaration of love to Andie MacDowell?

Politeness clearly is a cultural construct, a class marker (cf. the Punch cartoon below, which dates from 1845), and it differs from country to country, which is why it can lead to confusion in everyday conversations between non-native speakers and native speakers of English. The table below shows just how tricky politeness can be, although you should perhaps take it with a pinch of salt.



The Cambridge Dictionaries Blog features a useful entry on so-called “softeners”, terms we use in English to sound more polite:


Another nation which is renowned (and ridiculed) for its good manners is Canada. Again, popular culture has found plenty of ways to immortalize this cliché, the most famous of which is perhaps still the Canadian Mounty Benton Fraser from Due South:

Here’s a list of (humorous) examples of Canadian politeness:


canadian-mob canadian-lemmings


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