Sunday, 24 July 2011

Got Milk?

Let’s say you went to a store and wanted to find out if they have milk. Most people would ask, Do you have milk? In English, framing a negative question (Do you not have milk?) is generally considered impolite.

Japanese is the opposite. You would ask, Gyūnyū ga arimasen ka? (literally, Do you not have milk?) Using the negative form is more indirect and polite, showing that you are prepared for a negative answer.

Singlish takes yet another approach. As Wikitravel notes:

[T]he local dialect with its heavy Chinese influences may appear brusque or even rude, but saying "You want beer or not?" is in fact more polite in Chinese than asking if you want beer, after all, the person asking you the question is offering you a choice, not making a demand.


beej said...

my stay at chennai also taught me "change ilya?" which is "no change?" or... "do you not have change?"... infact, the ilya seems a mandatory end to a sentence regardless of what you hope they have..

Tommy said...

A (dated) joke:

Customer walks up to a counter in an East German department store, sees the shelves are bare, asks the clerk, "You don't have any shoes?"

Clerk says, "This is no pants. No shoes is on the next floor."

The Crooked Viper said...