American and English
Some years ago, I practised dentistry in a surgery near Ladbroke Grove in West London. One day while I was waiting for the next patient to arrive, I found myself alone at the reception desk, the receptionists having gone off somewhere briefly. The telephone rang. Being a helpful sort of person, I picked it up.
“Hello, this is the dental surgery,” I said.
A man with an American accent said to me:
“I want to speak with June Courtney.”
June was a dentist, who used to work in the practice.
“I am afraid she does not work here anymore,” I replied.
“Well, maybe you’re her husband?”
“No, I am not.”
“Well, maybe I can interest you in buying some bonds,” continued the trans-Atlantic caller.
“I’m not really interested,” I replied.
“Well, that means you might be a little bit interested,” the caller replied.
“let me explain something to you,” I began, “if someone English says that they are not really interested, it does not mean that they are ‘slightly interested. It is a polite way of saying that they are not at all interested; they are totally uninterested.”
“Well, thank you for explaining that, sir,” the caller said before ending the call.
I guess that sometimes it pays to speak bluntly.