American English is rather polite, I’d say

Teaching overseas is a bit different than teaching in the States. I’m confronted with realities that I’d never faced before. One of these realities is how polite American English is. I’ve come to recognize this because most of my students have learned British English which isn’t nearly as polite, in my humble opinion. We Americans really do beat around the bush, or utilize euphemisms, quite often.

I first realized this last fall. I was speaking to a woman who has incredibly fluent English and I casually mentioned that at some point we’d like to have a baby while living in Hungary. She then replied, “Oh, I can recommend a fantastic gynecologist!” I didn’t know why, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was extremely uncomfortable with her saying that. Why? Because we never say ‘gynecologist’- it’s a bad word. Rather we say “OB”, “OBGYN”, “lady doctor”. But, to say gynecologist is so crass! As you can imagine, my students often ask me who my gynecologist is now that I’m pregnant, and you better believe that there are about twenty people in this country who now say OBGYN instead.

Another one is in reference to the toilet. We never say, “may I use the toilet” or “excuse me, I’m going to use the toilet”. Can you say TMI?  No, no, no. We say, “I’m going to the ladies room” or “the rest room” as if to suggest that nothing more will happen than a powdering of the nose or the reapplications of lipstick, not a dreaded #1 or horror of horrors #2 which is also another way Americans up the politeness in English.

I’m telling you, we’re amazing. We have a gift of covering up the most derogatory of phrases, and making them sound like we’re going for a walk in the park.

Some other examples include:

vomit = throw up

diarrhea- the runs

body odor- b.o.

sweating- perspiring

fat- big boned

Can anyone else think of some examples?



Filed under Culture, European Travel, Our Daily Life, Teaching, Uncategorized

3 responses to “American English is rather polite, I’d say

  1. Kelly Payne

    Oh yes……let’s see…….my favorite has always been “she has a lovely personality” in lieu of “she has a face only a mother could love”.

    freshen up, instead of going to the toilet
    late bloomer, instead of lazy/irresponsible child
    sleeping with, instead of having sex with
    my time of the month, instead of period

    Oh, I know there are so many more! I just can’t think of them offhand…… 🙂

  2. As teachers, there are certain phrases we use as ‘code’
    has a lot of energy=meds! he needs meds!
    he struggles with peer relationships= he has no friends
    still learning to be honest= he is a liar
    is a frequent reporter=crybaby or tattle tale
    has difficulty keeping his hands to himself=hits kids or is too rough with them
    certainly a hard worker=doesnt get it at all

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