I almost always assume people are exaggerating, or just making it up. It’s inevitable when you’ve worked in the media for more than 30 years.  Everybody puts a little spin on the ball.

That’s why I get a kick out of one British-ism in particular:

“To be honest with you.”

Brits say this all the time. I don’t think they even know they’re saying it. It’s a mindless, reflexive phrase, like an atheist saying “God bless you” when you sneeze.

The first time I heard it I burst out laughing in the face of the guy who said it to me. He’d been going on with some long, involved story before suddenly trotting out “To be honest with you,” and I just lost it.

“Hang on,” I said, “does this mean that everything you’ve said up until now is a lie?”

He was baffled by the question - or, as the Brits would say, literally baffled by it.

“Literally” is another important word in the British vocabulary.  (Actually, most Brits say lit’rally, without the middle vowel.)

Mostly it’s women who use this word to dramatize minor matters. It’ll go something like this:

“I lit’rally just got home and when I went to the fridge, there was lit'rally nothing to eat, so I’m lit’rally having cheese and crackers for my dinner!”

Then they stand back, to give you room to gasp in disbelief.

There’s a drinking game in New York our friends play whenever they’re with my wife. Every time Kim says “lit’rally,” they toast her. They all stagger home on those nights. Lit’rally.

The most maddening British-ism of all is “I don’t mind.” It’s sort of a cousin to America’s “I don’t care,” without the directness.

People who say it are just looking for a little peace and quiet, however they can get it.

Husbands, usually.

Wife: “Shall we have rice or potatoes with the beef?”
Husband: “I don’t mind.”
Wife: “Which would you prefer?”
Husband: “I don’t mind.”
Wife: “Bloody hell, you are driving me crazy!”

So what does it all amount to? To be honest with you, I lit’rally don’t know.
But at the same time, I don’t mind.