Armchair Linguist

An amateur linguist drinks strong coffee and makes interesting observations about language from the comfort of his armchair.

Location: United Kingdom

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Too bad

Too bad is a curious phrase. In North America, it can be used as an expression of sympathy, the equivalent of "I'm sorry".

In Britain, it is almost always used facetiously as if to say, "Well, that's your problem."

There are consequences to being misunderstood. I once had an Internet conversation with a friend in the UK who was suffering terribly from arthritis. Trying to be sympathetic, I said, "That's too bad." The poor chap got pretty angry at my apparent callousness.

Watch out how you use that curious phrase, and who you use it with, or it might be too bad for you.


Blogger Silver said...

Actually, 'too bad' can go either was here in the USA. My mom used to tell us 'too bad, so sad, get glad' when we complained.
Also, with most people it's casual enough it's not very sympathetic, just an agreement, like when you agree that the whether in ______ sucks - Too bad, wish it could be better, but life ain't perfect.
Still, most people here only get pissed off if you say it in the wrong tone of voice, which is a problem with any internet friend.

22 November 2005 at 16:48  

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