Know this universal warning:  Beware of words and their meaning!  Words are tricksy.  Text is culturally malleable!

A UK associate and I exchanged email the other day.  I live in the USA.  He lives in the UK.

My associate told me he would be out-of-town for 10 days.  I told him I would miss him and “I was not kidding.”

My UK associate kindly replied and wondered if/why I was being sarcastic.

I re-read my reply and wondered what I’d done to make him think I was being sarcastic and non-genuine in my expression of missing him.

Here is the reply:

Words and nuances, oh Dear!

Here [in the UK], when we say “I am not kidding,” it means the fun stop here lets get serious and is a call to arms. Hackles up, and squaring up for a fight!  So in verbal tones it’s seen as sarcasm.

Don’t worry David, I am quite a calm person and am not going to offend just for the sake of it and I would need good cause.  Even then I would want to hear the other person’s perspective and point of view.

I recall the incident where I made a comment first on your post without a great deal of clarity: I was wondering in these type of situations if it might be a good idea if I emailed you the comment first or at least alerted you to it….

It’s funny because my associate mentioned in his reply my reaction to a comment he made on one of my articles where I felt he was picking on me — when he was doing just the opposite!

I am further reminded of the shadowy meaning of words when I became ensnared in a cultural misunderstanding of the phrase — “Man to Man” — between my Nebraska-bred invocation of it and New Jersey common usage.

Beware!  Text is tricksy and meaning and definition are not always clear!

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