In una lingua in cui non esistono “il voi” o “il lei” per rivolgersi con garbo e formalità è necessario utilizzare altri termini. Ecco perché le formule di cortesia come “sorry”, “please” e “thank you” sono fondamentali in inglese. Ascoltate due British doc sull’argomento…

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

In my experience Italians are often obsessed with making grammatical errors in English, but I believe that they’re not so important in conversation. The most important words in English, I think, are “please,” “sorry” and “thank you.” Do you… do you agree, Rachel?

Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)
I would agree with that, also because I think that a lot of English people have terrible grammar anyway, and they… if Italians make a mistake, they probably wouldn’t even notice. The most important thing for us, more than grammar, is probably accent but, you know, it’s… it’s really important to be polite (1) and to say “please” and “thank you.”

Mark Worden
Because there’s another… a thing that Italians – and Italians who speak very good English –  a mistake they make, is they… the equivalent of mi dia, mi faccia, but if you, in English, say “Give me this, do me that!” you’re being phenomenally rude (2).

Rachel Roberts
Because we don’t have a… a formal and informal version of “you,” like they do in Italian, so if you want to be formal, then you have to put some extra words into your sentence, so instead of saying, “give me that thing,” you have to say “Would you mind (3) giving me” or “Would you mind passing me” the salt, or whatever (4)  it is, to make your sentence more formal, and you do that with structure, rather than (5) with, you know, with the formal version of “you.”

Mark Worden
And this is something which the grammar books and the teachers don’t teach…

Rachel Roberts
I don’t think so, I don’t… I mean, I… I’m sure that… Italians are taught (6) that “please” and “thank you” are important, but maybe they don’t realize just how important and how many times we… we repeat it, and sometimes we even use… we can use it ironically, almost as a weapon (7), you know, “Well, please, can I have that thing?” You know, it’s… it doesn’t have to be just a polite form, I mean, but we… we use it all the time.

Mark Worden
That’s true, actually (8), because Italians often think that when the English say “please,” “sorry” and “thank you” all the time, they’re… they’re grovelling (9) and they’re being unbearably (10) obsequious, but, as you say, it is a weapon, it’s often a form of sort of passive aggression almost!

Rachel Roberts
Well, I can think of an example of my mum in a supermarket, all right?  And she was pushing… she’s very… she’s 87 so, you know, she was pushing the trolley with some difficulty through the supermarket, and she came to a narrow (11) point where there was a girl standing with her trolley horizontally blocking the way. Now, most English people would move… immediately move their trolley to let the other person go past, and this girl didn’t do that, and my mum went “hu-hu-hum” (coughing (12) sound) and the girl didn’t take any notice, and was just casually (13) looking at all the products on the shelves (14), and then, at a certain point, my mum sort of bashed (15) her trolley a little bit and went, “Oh, sorry!” like this, which was actually a way of saying, “Get your trolley out the way, I’m trying to go past, you know!”


1    polite: educati
2    rude: scortese
3    would you mind: ti/le dispicerebbe…
4    whatever: qualsiasi cosa
5    rather than: piuttosto che
6    Italians are taught: agli italiani viene insegnato
7    weapon: arma
8    actually: davvero
9    they’re grovelling: si stanno umiliando, fanno i servili
10   unbearably: insopportabilmente
11    narrow: stretto
12    coughing: tosse
13    casually: con non curanza
14    shelves: scaffali
15    bashed: è andata addosso

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