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Jane Bates: mind your language to avoid a 'right old stew'

Every language has an array of confusing phrases that are part of everyday speech and we must be mindful of this when talking to patients and colleagues, says Jane Bates
Confusing language

Every language has an array of confusing phrases that are part of everyday speech and we must be mindful of this when talking to patients and colleagues, says Jane Bates

‘Bad luck!’ I said to the waiter, who was not a native English speaker. I was grovelling on the floor, picking up pieces of shattered glass after he had knocked over a champagne flute.

But instead of appreciating the sympathy, he got himself into a right old stew. ‘Bad luck?’ He said. ‘Is it bad luck to break a glass?’

'No, no', I reassured him, but he wouldn’t listen. He had misunderstood the expression, which means ‘never mind, it was only an accident’, and thought I meant that smashing a drinking vessel was an augur of doom. I had ruined his day and I felt dreadful.

Language is a minefield,

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