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New Survey Finds British Sarcasm Is Lost On Americans

The latest study to confirm what many people have long suspected to be to be true has found that British sarcasm is ‘lost on Americans’.

Yes, according to leading polling company YouGov, while the US and the UK share an undeniably sturdy connection when it comes to language, there’s one chasm that they just can’t get over – the British tradition of passive-aggressive subtext in everyday phrases. It’s what we do best.

In the survey – hilariously titled ‘Half of Americans won’t be able to tell that a Briton is calling them an idiot’ – it outlines how Americans would often miss the sarcasm in statements made by Brits.

The report states: “It has been said that Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language.

“Now a new YouGov Omnibus survey reveals how Americans might find themselves in a pickle for having failed to understand what Britons really mean when they make certain statements.

“The survey is based on a humorous meme showing how foreigners don’t understand the subtext of British English.”


With the meme in mind, YouGov Omnibus decided to ask a bunch of people from the UK and the US which translation they would take as being the correct one.

According to their findings, the Americans who took part repeatedly had trouble translating some statements to what was really meant – the most notable being ‘with the greatest respect’.

“Here in the UK,” the report states, “the vast majority of us (68%) know that someone saying this to you is in the process of calling you an idiot. By contrast, only 40% of Americans believe the same – in fact they are more likely (49%) to take the statement at face value and believe it simply means ‘I am listening to you’.”

Credit: YouGov
Credit: YouGov

Similar outcomes arose for ‘I’ll bear it in mind’ (aka I won’t), ‘I hear what you say’ (aka STFU, I don’t agree but let’s move on) and ‘You must come for dinner’ (aka don’t come for dinner, I’m just too polite to end this conversation on ‘goodbye’ alone).

As is shown by the findings, Americans might have a very different perception of what a UK resident might mean when they say any of the above phrases.

Perhaps they should bear that in mind next time they’re talking to a sarky Brit – or they could just give themselves a masterclass in English sarcasm by watching all episodes of Peep Show back-to-back. That’ll do it.

Featured Image Credit: Channel 4


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