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Hitting the Tube

How subtle our language can be  and how dangerous when used poorly.

Today I witnessed the wonders of the English language almost causing a cat fight between an earthy, white london lady and a robust nigerian femme fatale. perhaps that should be femme fatal.

Carriage isn’t full. Londoner enters, sits down next to Nigerian opposite me. Nothing remarkable.

“You Hit Me”, says the Nigerian. Imagine the very distinct, assertive tone with the stress on Hit. The tone isn’t aggressive or high pitched but nonetheless it cannot help but come across as robust and accusatory.

“I’m sorry? what was that?” says perplexed Londoner.

“I said, you hit me”

“What? what are you on about?”

“I thought you should know, you hit me. You should apologise”

“What?!? I didn’t touch you!”

“I am telling you that you hit me so that you can apologise”

“But I didn’t hit you.”

“You hit me”

“I’m not apologising for anything”

<frosty silence till I got off the tube>

In my mind they go on to talk about their cultural differences and by the end of the line they’ve realised how much we have in common as humans and that the world’s a better place if we don’t assume the worst, come out of our commuting bubbles and are a bit more careful with our language.

I almost intervened to suggest replacing the word “Hit” with banged, knocked, nudged, bumped into… or anything else that might more accurately have described the gentle collision of the kind we all experience every time we go into the tunnels. But then I think I would have been the one who got hit.

Imagine what it’s like working for the UN.

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