Apr 282010

Not all of South America has a positive politeness style. Apparently Peruvians tend to favour negative politeness, as do Columbians. This example comes via a friend of a friend. (Thanks Sabrina)

An English speaking couple were standing at a bus stop in Columbia when they were approached by a guy making a request. The English girl spoke some Spanish and from the guy’s demeanour and what he seemed to be saying, she thought he was asking the time. Her boyfriend was bilingual and understood his intent. ‘He’s mugging us’, he explained. ‘He wants our money.’

Roughly translated, the guy had said:

‘I hate to bother you, but would you please give me all of your money because if you don’t, I will have to harm you. Thank you ever so much for your cooperation.’

Wow, now that’s framing things very gently indeed!

Some other posts related to this:   Politeness    Whimpish Imperatives    Impositions    Polite modals
 Posted by at 11:25 am

  9 Responses to “Gently, gently”

  1. I love this story and would like to mention that the source is from my supervisor, Rosina Márquez-Reiter, a South American from Uruguay.

  2. I had friends who went through the same thing while going to see Macchu Picchu – wonder if it was the same muggers. In my story, the victim who was being asked for his shoes, explained that actually he didn’t think that anyone in Peru would actually be able to wear them due to their size and the mugger thoughtfully considered the response and gave them back asking if there was anything else the victim could give him instead as he really had to have something… seeing as how he was mugger.

    🙂 K

  3. Thanks Sabrina. I am proud to have such an illustrious source.

  4. Wow Karenne! Amazing!

  5. sorry it’s a little off subject again but it reminds me of something that happened in cali, Columbia.
    I was traveling through South America and i had decided to jump Columbia – the stories in the news about muggings were too strong and far from polite , the week prior a couple had been murdered for the theft of a camera and everyone was having ear-rings ripped out of their ears by street gangs.
    So i took a flight from St Andreas island to as close as the ecuadorian border as possible with the idea of taking a bus.
    unfortunately the plane arrived in Cali about one am and i was forced to spend one night there.
    i was totally freaked out at the idea. but i had the address of a hotel not far from the airport.
    I was really scared.
    Looking around in the terminal we (i was traveling with my girlfriend) saw an armed policeman/solder, approached, showed him the adress and asked for directions.
    he looked at it, then us and said “this is a very dangerous area, i had better go with you”.
    we were scared before, now we were terrified and followed him and his machine gun.
    we walked like this for a while and there was no one, just a dark city, and we came to a long, dimly lit underpass.
    the soldier/policeman braced his weapon entered and we followed
    as we descended into the gloomy underpass, the soldier’s pace slowed.
    we slowed behind him.
    this didn’t feel good.
    He slowed even more and then in the deepest part of the underpass he stopped.
    we stopped fearing the worst, thinking to run. getting shot was maybe better.
    He turned.
    “have you got any stamps from your country?”

  6. Wow! So how come Germans sound a heck of a lot scarier when they ask for your signature?

  7. Hi! I found your blog through Separated by a Common Languange, and it’s really interesting. Anyway, this story was so funny. Just one thing though: the country in South America is spelled Colombia, with an “o” after the “l.”

  8. Gosh, yes! A(nother) spelling error. Duh! Many thanks for stopping by Maria and for your kind words. Hope to see you again.

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