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Understatement

712 of 1169 nominations

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Understatement

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Understatement

The English gift for understatement is considered to be one of our more endearing traits. When solid sheets of rain are bouncing off the pavements, we say “Looks a bit wet out there.” When we are presented with a sickeningly huge bill in a restaurant, we murmur, “Good Lord, that’s a little on the steep side.” It’s all in the interests of keeping a level head, maintaining a sense of perspective, and not making mountains out of molehills.

Not only does understatement prevent us from being reduced to hysteria in the face of the unexpected and the outrageous, but it also helps us not to get too big-headed in the event of some outstanding achievement. Instinctively, we prefer the style of the interviewer who said to Sir Steve Redgrave on the occasion of his winning a fifth Olympic gold medal in 20 years, “Not bad going, Steve”. Some feel our gift for understatement is deserting us in the celebrity age, which – to put it mildly – would be a bit of a shame.

NOMINATION 712 OF 1169

Your comments

Understatement is so very English. It's often hard to be perceived by other nationalities. Only the English can do it naturally and perfectly. "I have a bit of a headache" when in reality you may have a splitting headache. "I may be some time" - I am going to die. "To say that Roman Abramovich is rich is the understatement of the year". "To say that Manchester United is a great club is an understatement" - it is the greatest. And so on. ...

Alecia Jioeva


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I think the National Gallery is part of the heritage of England

PETER KING

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