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嫌いな英語:What's the damage?


Dear All,

Good morning, hope this BCC e-mail will bring you a laugh.

As always, I need your help in order for me to understand a part of the British mentality.

I cannot remember when I heard first time this particular phrase, "What's the damage on my wallet?". However, I still remember my initial reaction to this; I was not able to understand what is the person in front of me asking?

From a Japanese point of view, I was thinking that I did not force you to spend your money, but it is YOU who have chosen to spend/ waste your money. Why are you making me feel guilty? Why can you not ask me simply, "how much is it?"

I asked a British friend of mine if this phrase is only used in the UK. The answer is Yes. The Americans can understand what it means, but they do not use it frequently.

Then, EU referendum. Before the last week's tragedy, what both Remain and Leave did was that they scared the voters by saying if you would not vote for us, it must be you who cause us big problems.

I do not know British or English mentality, and not always, but people in the UK tend to make the others feel guilty although the others have not done anything wrong.

If my question irritates you, please ignore, but if you have your say, please teach me.

 この"What's the damage?"という表現を知っている日本人がどれほどなのかは全く予想できない。が、これを日本語に直訳して日本の日常生活で使おう、使える人が多く居るとは思わない。


Hi Koji

As you know, I'm here in xxxxxxxx. Well in spite of the long history of Brits over here, some of our expressions are also not understood by Asian colleagues and this has made me careful about the way I use my language because I do not want to give offence or puzzle people. I find I have to express myself more simply and directly, and sometimes in ways which would seem rude if I were talking to someone who comes from the same place, generation and background to me.

The fact is that the English language is constantly evolving and changing. The way my children speak is sometimes quite different from the way I speak and I don't understand all their expressions. There is a great tradition of playfulness in English, whether it is spoken by West Indians, Irishmen or East Londoners. So expressions such as 'What's the damage?' meaning 'How much does it cost?' are intended to be humorous. Much British humour is based on exactly the dynamic you have described. So the person in the shop who comes in with money and the power to buy something jokingly pretends he is the one without any power and pushes the power or guilt on to the sales person. It is not meant to be nasty. I hope you are not offended.



Phrase of the day: What’s the damage?

Last month I had to take my car in to the garage to get the annual MOT done. An MOT is basically a check you have to have done every year to ensure your car is still safe enough to be on the roads. I always get mine done in the same place – a little local garage near where I live. I know the mechanics there and I know the owner and I trust them to do a good job and not try and rip me off by charging me for things I don’t really need. When I went to pick up my car, I chatted a bit, had a look at what they’d done and then went into the office to pay. I asked, as I usually do in these kinds of circumstances “So can I settle up? What’s the damage?

It’s the same question I might ask a tailor, a barman, a builder or a friend who’s bought something I asked them to get me. I’ve always thought of it as a friendly, jokey kind of question; a way of asking how much you owe while acknowledging the damage done to your bank balance. However, I was chatting to a Japanese friend yesterday and suddenly realised not everybody sees it in the same way. The first time he heard the question, his initial reaction was blank incomprehension, which was followed shortly afterwards by shock. He saw the question as manipulative and found it annoying. “From a Japanese point of view,” he told me, “I’m thinking that I didn’t force anyone to spend their money. They chose to do it themselves! Why are they trying to make me feel guilty? Why can’t they just ask me simply how much something is?”

It just goes to show how simple bits of everyday language can be interpreted so differently – and how deeply our own cultural roots affect the way we see things. A fixed phrase that I’ve always taken for granted – or seen as warm and friendly and funny – can sound very different to our listeners.

When we’re teaching at LONDON LANGUAGE LAB, we try to be aware of cultural differences – as well as common ground. We encourage discussion of how language sounds to you – and exploration of possible reasons for any differences. It’s only by talking that any of us ever learn how to be more sensitive about the way our words may impact those around us.




知りませんでした。 - Yoshi

Kojiさん、この表現、知りませんでした。イギリス人の友人のお二人の説明を読んで、なるほど、と思いました。慣用表現なんですね。手元の英英辞典で引くと、'the amount of money needed to purchase something' と語義が出ていました。英和辞典では、(俗)とあって、つまり口語的表現と言うことでしょうけど、「費用、代価」とありました。但し、私は聞いたことがありません。英語のあまり上手くない人には、イギリス人は使わない表現なんでしょうね。勉強になりました。
2016.06.21 Tue 11:51 URL [ Edit ]

- 守屋

Yoshi さん

2016.06.21 Tue 12:19 URL [ Edit ]


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