Dealing with Nosy people

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I had a request from a blog reader for how to deal with people that are nosy but nice.

It is common in English for people to ask personal questions, but sometimes people take it too far.

Either they start to ask things that are too personal, try to involve themselves in your private matters, or they try to help you with things that you don’t need help with (like taking your phone to fix some settings, or trying to solve your personal problems).

Now even though I’m a native English speaker and an English teacher that doesn’t mean I have the solution to this problem. You will deal with difficult people in any language. But I can share some phrases.

 

So if another person is doing something too nosy and meddlesome like:

“Oh did someone send you a strange message? Give me your phone and I’ll deal with this!”

 

this is how you could reply

 


Casual:

(these are good if it is a minor problem, or if you are close to the person)

“It’s okay I got this”

“Don’t worry, I’ll do it myself”


Polite, but firm:

(these are good if the person is trying to be nice and you don’t want to hurt their feelings)

“I appreciate you trying to help, but I’d prefer to handle this myself.”

“That’s nice of you, but this is a private matter for me.”


Confrontational

(these could lead to an argument, try to avoid this language unless you want a fight. )

“Mind your business.”

“This doesn’t concern you.”

“Please stop meddling in my life”

 

I don’t know if these phrases will be useful. Some people are just hard to deal with regardless of language.

Toilet, Washroom, Bathroom, Restroom … etc.


One of the first vital phrases you learn in English class is usually :
“May I go to the washroom?”
If someone is traveling they will always find “Excuse me, where is the bathroom?” in their phrasebooks.
But we have so many names for that room: Washroom, Restroom, Bathroom, Lavatory, Toilet, W.C. … which one is best to use?

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In Canada we usually say “Washroom” or “Bathroom”. In other parts of North America they also use “Restroom” fairly often. To North Americans it would be strange to say “I need to use the toilet.” Some parts of America find the name “Bathroom” strange to use, since it doesn’t often have a bath in it.

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Bathroom? Where’s the bath?

When I went to Australia people commonly called that room the “Toilet”, I’ve heard that’s common in England too.
I’ve heard in Britain they call that room the W.C. (water closet) or lavatory. But those words would be strange to use in North America.

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Then there are a whole bunch of slang: “The men’s room / the ladies room”, “The loo” (Britain), “the facilities” and also some less polite slang like “The crapper” or “The pisser”.
So even native English speakers get confused with these. It seems that “Washroom” is the safest one to use overall. But if you are visiting an area find out what the locals call it.

 

Curiosity Killed the Cat

 

“I think my girlfriend might be cheating on me, I’m going to snoop around on her phone.”

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“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You know what they say: curiosity killed the cat.”


“My son burnt his hand touching the hot stove. Curiosity killed the cat.”

 


There is a proverb in English “Curiosity Killed the Cat” which warns someone that excessive investigation or experimenting will lead to a bad result.

In the first example the friend is warning that if the first guy looks in his girlfriend’s phone it will have a bad result (maybe his girlfriend will get angry).

In the second example the father is saying that his son was too curious about the stove and touched it to see what would happen, which gave a bad result.

This proverb comes from the idea of a curious cat, but that its inquisitiveness leads to its death. Try to picture a cat that is curious about the edge of a rooftop, goes to the edge to look over, and falls off the building.

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We use this proverb generally to warn people not to try something foolish or not to ask certain questions.

Nagging, nitpicking and scolding

Some English learners have questions about trying to use the word 잔소리 in English. There is no direct translation so most dictionaries give you the three words: nag, nitpick and scold. But we have to use these in different situations.

Nag

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“Nag” is when someone (usually a spouse, parent or friend) complains often about something that you don’t think is worth complaining about. “My wife nags me for drinking too much” implies she is doing the wrong thing and the drinking isn’t a problem. “My mom nags me for not taking out the garbage.” “My friends nag me for not hanging out with them.” The complaint has to be repeated, annoying and trivial to you. Unfortunately this is more often used with females, the stereotype being a “nagging wife.”

Nitpick

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“Nitpick” is to complain about small details, little things that aren’t important. “My friend always nitpicks about pizza toppings.” “My coworker nitpicks so much about the format of the report that we can’t even get it started.” Nitpick is less confrontational than nagging, and doesn’t imply any relationship between the complainer and the person listening.

Nagging is about a person’s faults, nitpicking is usually not directed at a person.

Scold

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Scolding is different from the other ones. Scolding is complaining to someone about their actions or behaviors- but in this case the person being scolded definitely did something wrong.

Nagging and nitpicking are thought of as annoying and useless complaints, scolding is justified.

Funny vs. Funny

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“I like your sister, she’s really funny.

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“Your sister seems a little funny.

On the surface these two sentences may seem to have similar meanings. You will notice a difference in tone (the word stress in the sentence) however. “Funny” can mean “comical or humorous, able to make someone laugh” or it can mean “strange, weird, off-putting.”

This second definition is less common, it is used when you are not 100% sure if there is a problem with a person, thing or situation – but you get a feeling something is wrong.


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“I’ve got a funny feeling about this.”

“I’ve got a funny feeling about this.” Is a common phrase to hear someone say in a horror movie as they enter a scary situation.

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“My science teacher seems funny. Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’.”

“My science teacher seems funny. Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’.” Is the way you might describe someone that seems strange or unusual. The “Not funny ‘ha,ha’ , funny ‘weird’” part is sometimes added for clarification.

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“My shoulder has felt funny since the baseball game last week,”

“My shoulder has felt funny since the baseball game last week,” would be a way to say that there is a little pain, or an unusual feeling in the shoulder.

It’s important to note that most things that are comical or humorous are also “funny” and enjoyable because they are strange or unexpected. So the definitions are actually related.

The best way to tell the difference is just by context and tone.

Idiom: Out of the Blue

 

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“A stranger just came up to me out of the blue and gave me twenty dollars. It was really strange.”


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“My girlfriend just broke up with me out of the blue.” (
여자친구가 난데없이 저를 졌어요. )


Sometimes something happens “out of the blue” or someone says something “out of the blue”, this means that it was completely unexpected.

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This idiom originates with the sky. The idea is that when weather is normal the sky is blue, but when bad weather happens the sky usually changes color, or clouds form. Then from that dark sky you can get rain, thunder or lightning. Imagine though that the sky was completely clear and blue and then in an instant it started raining. Or that from a clear blue sky there was a bolt of lightning. It would be very unexpected for bad weather to happen “out of the blue” sky.
We wouldn’t use this expression for something that was expected. This sentence wouldn’t work “I knew the guy liked me and he was always flirting with me, and today he asked me out out of the blue.” A situation like that isn’t unexpected.
Also, we wouldn’t use it for something extremely tragic “My grandfather died out of the blue.” Would be too light. Idioms are not formal enough for extremely serious situations. “My goldfish died out of the blue” might be fine, if you weren’t too attached to the pet.

Under the Weather, Sick/ Ill

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“I’m feeling under the weather
“Jane is sick today, she can’t come to class.”
“My grandfather is ill.”
All of these sentences have similar meanings, but let’s take a look at the differences.
First off “Under the weather” is an idiom that means “sick”. It is believed to come from sailors who had to stay below decks on ships when sick (under the deck and under the weather outside).

Although it has the same meaning as “sick” since you are speaking indirectly through an idiom it is a little less strong. It is also more common to use with softeners like “a little under the weather” when you feel only partially sick.
Sick” and “Ill” are synonyms, two words that mean the same thing, but we tend to use them a bit differently.
We more often use “sick” for short term things like a cold, flu or food poisoning that last several days.

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Ill” is more often used for long term diseases or hereditary illnesses like cancer.

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“I missed work last week because I was sick.” Is common, however “I missed work last week because I was ill is still grammatically correct and not unnatural -just less common.
“My grandfather is sick, he has cancer.” Likewise is not wrong, just a less common use of the word sick.
Under the weather” though can only be used for short term, temporary things and would never be used for a fatal disease.